Why Dawson Opposed Our Bourgeois Mind

 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon” (Mt 6:24).

This Gospel passage provides us with proper framework to evaluate Christopher Dawson’s controversial essay, “Catholicism and the Bourgeois Mind.” Dawson is not an economist and is not writing an economic treatise. As an historian of culture and ideas, he is criticizing a particular mindset or spirit which has fundamentally shaped and governed the modern world. Dawson’s central thesis throughout his corpus is that religion is the very heart of culture. He recognizes that today our heart is not religion, but rather wealth. The problem is not capitalist economics, but rather the mind or soul with which it is practiced and the lack of a genuine religious framework to guide it. For Dawson, the bourgeois soul worships wealth and earthly prosperity above God, and thus practices a new secular religion.

Dawson’s essay caused quite a stir when it was republished by Crisis in January 2012. In particular, Jeffrey Tucker and John Zmirak forcefully rejected Dawson’s claims, while Gerald Russello somewhat cautiously defended him. The debate has resurfaced recently as Zmirak has republished his article with a new title, “Christopher Dawson’s Economic Blindness,” with Dale Coulter responding on First Things (which I recommend reading alongside of this piece). I would like to respond to Tucker and Zmirak before offering my own defense of Dawson.

Jeffrey Tucker does not directly respond to Dawson’s claims. Rather, he attempts to justify bourgeois culture by appeal to two of its general effects, an argument which is subject to the fallacy of appeal to consequences. However, he offers no direct defense of the bourgeois mind that produced these effects, which, once again, is what Dawson attacks. Although we can recognize the desirability of sleeping in a comfortable bed and, of course, of a longer life expectancy (the two effects that Tucker emphasizes), we can still ask the question: “what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life?” (Matt 16:26).

If the bourgeois mind is bent on comfort and earthly prosperity above all else, we have to question its accomplishments. The problem is that the bourgeois mind makes the goods of the earth an end in themselves. Our life on earth, however, is a means to a greater end, our only final end, which is life everlasting. A short life expectancy in the midst of an impoverished, but happier and holier culture would certainly be preferable to a long life expectancy in the midst of a culture bent on self-satisfaction and spiritual destruction. The life of sanctity is rigorous, and as Dawson says, we have to “choose the difficult and hazardous way of creative spiritual activity, which is the way of the saints.”

Tucker asserts in defense of bourgeois culture that “every innovation in this period led to a gigantic leap forward for life.” In spite of our longer life expectancy, St. John Paul II rightly points out that we have created a culture of death. We cannot judge the quality of our lives from a material perspective. Bourgeois culture has given us many desirable things, but this spirit bent on material prosperity has also given us many other things—things which threaten and undermine human life, turning it into a commodity. One must fear the further unfolding of bourgeois culture, not because material advancements are bad, but that they are occurring in the midst of the greatest spiritual crisis we have ever known. As Dawson argues in Understanding Europe, “there has never been a society so totally absorbed in the technique and equipment of civilization or more neglectful of the ultimate spiritual values for sake of which the human race exists” (232). We need a conversion of the bourgeois spirit into a Christian spirit to make proper use of these advancements.

Zmirak employs strong rhetoric against Dawson, but like Tucker, he also does not strike me as taking Dawson’s core argument very seriously (except as an object to be thrown across the room). Fundamentally, Dawson is accused of rejecting prudence and good sense, even to the point of reducing us to an animal condition! It is important to remember that Dawson is accused of this for encouraging us to follow the Gospel’s teaching on trust in providence. It is true that Dawson opposes the “spirit of calculation, the spirit of worldly prudence,” but, I think this must be understood in light of his overall goal. It is not so much that he rejects prudence, but that he is trying to reassert the primacy of religion, especially in the sphere of economics. If anything, I would fault Dawson for not stating explicitly how the Gospel rightly orders the bourgeois mind, as occurred in the Middle Ages through the guild system.

Next, Dawson is criticized for contrasting bourgeois culture with the Baroque. Once again, Zmirak misunderstands Dawson’s point. In upholding the Baroque, he is not arguing for the model virtue of the Spaniards in the New World, but rather he points toward a more Catholic understanding of money as a means to an end. (In the Spaniards defense, however, we should recognize, in spite of the problems of American colonization, that they also gave us Las Casas and Vitoria). The true end, Dawson insists, of wealth, and all else for that matter, is the glory of God.

Finally, Zmirak lumps Dawson together with the fascist, Ezra Pound. I find this assertion particularly absurd, because Dawson spent the Second World War leading an ecumenical and anti-totalitarian movement, The Sword of the Spirit, which promoted unity and peace.

Like Tucker, Zmirak neither genuinely engages Dawson’s argument nor offers a substantive response to it. Fundamentally, Dawson does not reject economics (as in economic blindness), but rather insists that economics must fit into a broader vision, which cannot ultimately be bourgeois, but must be Christian. Dawson is not challenging economic principles; he is challenging us. He recognizes that “we are all more or less bourgeois and our civilization is bourgeois from top to bottom.” The bourgeois mind should not shape us fundamentally, but needs to be subordinate or converted to “the mind of Christ.” As St. Paul says: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom 12:2).

It would, of course, be possible to interpret Dawson simply as rejecting the material progress of civilization, as his critics have done. Even Russello seems to admit the grounds for this. Although Tucker, somewhat ironically, accuses Dawson of focusing simply on the beautiful artifacts of Christian culture, Dawson notes that the products of bourgeois culture are “not merely offensive to the aesthetic sense, they are symptoms of social disease and spiritual failure.” Once again, we see Dawson’s true aim here. His defense of traditional society, centered on agriculture and family, is not simply a nostalgic desire, but a recognition that the bourgeois culture we have produced has threatened these fundamental human realities, creating a “divorce of man from nature and from the life of the earth.”

Dawson rightly recognizes that the modern spiritual crisis largely revolves around the place of money, or mammon. In response, he seeks to uphold the dignity of work, which is something more than simply earning a wage or the accumulation of wealth. Dawson fundamentally stands against the primacy of money and wealth in human society: “In short the bourgeois is essentially a moneymaker, at once its servant and its master, and the development of his social ascendancy shows the degree to which civilization and human life are dominated by the money power.” That is not the same thing as rejecting their importance, but only their dominance. Dawson seeks to relativize money with the assistance of St. Thomas, showing that money is simply a means and not an end.

In fact, Pope John Paul has argued in a similar vein in Laborem Exercens:

This way of stating the issue contained a fundamental error, what we can call the error of economism, that of considering human labour solely according to its economic purpose. This fundamental error of thought can and must be called an error of materialism, in that economism directly or indirectly includes a conviction of the primacy and superiority of the material, and directly or indirectly places the spiritual and the personal (man’s activity, moral values and such matters) in a position of subordination to material reality.

John Paul’s call for a civilization of love, rather than a culture of death, can also be seen to support Dawson’s view. Charity sees beyond the self to a further end in God. Dawson, once again, reveals his true religious or spiritual aim: “The essential question is not the question of economics, but the question of love.” And further: “Seen from this point of view, it is obvious that the Christian ethos is essentially antibourgeois, since it is an ethos of love.” Dawson is fundamentally hitting at the mind we need, in order to use money well, not only in supporting ourselves and our families, but in ordering our lives toward the Kingdom.

Ultimately, Dawson challenges our current status quo, which even defender of the bourgeois mind should appreciate. He recognizes that the spirit of capitalism has passed into something more degenerate, a post-bourgeois culture, though still focused on economics as its end:

Capitalism may well survive, but it will be a controlled and socialized capitalism which aims rather at maintaining the general standard of life than at the reckless multiplication of wealth by individuals. Yet the mere slowing down of the tempo of economic life, the transformation of capitalism from a dynamic to a static form will not in itself change the spirit of our civilization. Even if it involves the passing of the bourgeois type in its classical nineteenth-century form, it may only substitute a post-bourgeois type which is no less dominated by economic motives, though it is more mechanized and less dominated by the competitive spirit.

This hits the nail right on the head.

Likewise, Dawson genuinely points to the answer, in line with his central insight on religion as the true heart of culture:

It is only in religion that we shall find a spiritual force that can accomplish a spiritual revolution. The true opposite to the bourgeois is not to be found in the communist, but in the religious man—the man of desire. The bourgeois must be replaced not so much by another class as by another type of humanity

The bourgeois soul for Dawson is not found simply in support of the free market. The bourgeois soul is found when one puts money above God, in contrast to the religious man, who places God first.

Catholics in good faith can disagree on the legitimacy of modern economic practices. I would, however, argue that Dawson’s thesis on the mind that governs these practices should be taken seriously. He calls us to return to the service of God rather than the service of mammon. Seeking first the kingdom will not ruin our economic lives and return us to the state of animals, but will provide us with a better way of organizing our new found technology, health, and wealth. Dawson’s prophetic voice proclaims the need to reevaluate our view of wealth. It is a means and not an end. We need to refocus on our true end to transform our post-bourgeois culture into a genuinely Christian one.

R. Jared Staudt

By

R. Jared Staudt works in the Office of Evangelization and Family Life Ministries of the Archdiocese of Denver. He earned his BA and MA in Catholic Studies at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN and his PhD in Systematic Theology from Ave Maria University in Florida. Staudt served previously as a director of religious education in two parishes, taught at the Augustine Institute and the University of Mary, and served as co-editor of the theological journal Nova et Vetera. He and his wife Anne have six children and he is a Benedictine oblate.

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour

    A suspicion, not so much of wealth, as of commerce, has very deep roots in Western culture. Echoing Aristotle, St Thomas says that commerce has a certain baseness (turpitudo) about it, because it is not, of itself, directed to any honest or necessary end (although it can be).[ST II-II q 77]

    In other words, the end of medicine is healing, the end of agriculture is food production and so on. But the end of commerce is gain, which may be used well or ill.

    The bourgeois, by the nature of his calling, tends to view things under the aspect of commodities, as something to be bought and sold, rather than for their use and its contribution to human well-being. It is to know the price of everything and the value of nothing

    This becomes a problem when the bourgeoisie ceases to be a class and its spirit imbues a whole culture.

    • Zmirak

      Prof. Staudt, thank you for a thoughtful article. Perhaps this piece I wrote subsequently will prove enlightening:
      http://www.aleteia.org/en/religion/article/was-pontius-pilate-right-5733525789605888
      Any reading of Christianity that is so fundamentally incompatible with human flourishing as Dawson’s is that it actually renders the Faith rationally unacceptable ought to be rejected. If someone tries to convince me that the Gospel demands universal celibacy, absolute pacifism–or an animalistic rejection of economic prudence–I know first of all that any such doctrine CANNOT BE TRUE. Then I trust that I will not find them borne out in the Gospel.

      • Dick Prudlo

        Once we could have relied on a masculine Church to energize the need for economic changes. Changes that would not look like what we see today. That Church and its human element is DEAD. In its place we have hollow men playing with politics and not Faith, from the priest to pope; hollow to the core.

        • JC

          my thought is that the Church, since Vatican II has been dabbling in serving mammon and thats why its in TROUBLE

  • There appear to be at least three possible avenues, reasons for doing what you do. Some play for possession and accumulation. Others play for command and control. The same rules applied to playing for compassion and awareness produce yet another outcome. Mammon offers the either or choice. Take the third one.

  • The_Monk

    Subsidiarity demands localized society, including economic entities. Big business, big government and big labor reside outside the bounds of the moral order revealed in subsidiarity. Chesterton and others proposed a system that was Christian family based, called distributism. An ideal perhaps, but a worthy one….

    • TheAbaum

      “Chesterton and others proposed a system that was Christian family based, called distributism.”

      It’s not a “system”. It’s a fantasy. It doesn’t exist, never has existed and will not exist in the future, except in the minds of proponents.

      • Nick_Palmer3

        I need more carefully to read the article above and its citations, but want to second Abaum’s comment. GKC was a great man, maybe even a saint. But, like some wonderful popes, not wholly economically profound or literate.

        I attended last year’s Chesterton Society conference here in MA. Great speakers, very nice people. albeit a bit clique-y (although that could be more a reflection of me). In a breakout seminar on Distributism, however, I found the discussion sadly moved quickly from the practical to the “how-dare-you-accuse-me-of-not-being-a-good-person” emotional. In advance of the conference, and following it I attempted to learn what I could about Distributism. [And, I’m not a complete slouch on the topic — Harvard MBA, 30 years a management consultant, ABD PhD Business Economics Harvard.]

        To Abaum’s “fantasy” point, I would sharpen things a bit. First, Distributism appears to require a fundamental change in human nature. People who live by its tenets, and there are certainly those who do (some in attendance at the conference) appear to be exceptionally compassionate, Christian (both upper and lower case “c”) people. They sacrifice and suffer for others well beyond the common man. As post-modern/liberal utopians build their dreams around Rousseau’s vision of pre-modern, “programmable” man, these Distributists would need a world (community) of exceptional Christians. But most of us are human. I often hearken back to Russell Kirk’s “Ten Conservative Principles.”

        Second, there are further practical challenges. One is the we-are-where-we-are problem. We live in a “modern” capital-intensive world, with little likelihood of reversion to a craft-y guild-based situation. The Distributists I’ve met and read engage in a bunch of hand waving to explain how Distributism would support things like bauxite extraction, airplane construction, and wireless network management. I “get” craft beers (although no longer a drinker), and see plenty of local produce in stores (although, please see the slap-down of “organic” farming in last weekend’s WSJ), but much of today’s economy requires massive capital investments.

        Third, there is the transition to Distributism to discuss. The session I attended last summer was ostensibly aimed at discussing this topic. The short answer — we don’t know.

        So, I’m with Abaum on this. Where Distributism appears to be working in practice today, it is parasitic on the larger economy. Like the so-called communism of a kibbutz, or like much of Europe for the past decades, it requires a massive, wealth-producing host to keep it going. The US anyone? Perhaps, given current trends, not for so much longer…

        • TheAbaum

          The curious task of economics….

          • tamsin

            I donned hipboots this morning and gamely tried to write up a response to just a couple of paragraphs in this article, but it’s quicksand. Every time I return to read the article, I see ways in which Staudt reveals Dawson doubling back on himself, even to the point of claiming “we are all more or less bourgeois and our civilization is bourgeois from top to bottom.” Perhaps from beginning to end; it’s not clear to me that the Bourgeois Mind was not present in Athens and Rome and Jerusalem.

            Dawson is describing a Fall of Man that occurs at the end of the Middle Ages.

            Do we need Dawson, or can we quote Jesus, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” and call it a day?

            Dawson needs to get out there and run a lemonade stand, or drive an ice cream truck, or something.

            • TheAbaum

              “Dawson needs to get out there and run a lemonade stand, or drive an ice cream truck, or something.”

              I used to wonder why the Good Lord called fishermen as disciples. I no longer wonder. There’s a wisdom that comes from performing a useful task, and one can gather it’s easier to be humble when one reeks of fish.

            • Michael Paterson-Seymour

              Tasmin

              Of course the “Bourgeois mind” was present in Athens and Rome and Jerusalem, but it did not predominate, or set the tone of the whole society.

              Dr Johnson, on his visit to the Western Isles, describes the effect of commerce: “Where there is no commerce nor manufacture, he that is born poor can scarcely become rich; and if none are able to buy estates, he that is born to land cannot annihilate his family by selling it. This was once the state of these countries. Perhaps there is no example, till within a century and half, of any family whose estate was alienated otherwise than by violence or forfeiture. Since money has been brought amongst them, they have found, like others, the art of spending more than they receive; and I saw with grief the chief of a very ancient clan, whose Island was condemned by law to be sold for the satisfaction of his creditors…. The Laird is the original owner of the land, whose natural power must be very great, where no man lives but by agriculture; and where the produce of the land is not conveyed through the labyrinths of traffick, but passes directly from the hand that gathers it to the mouth that eats it. The Laird has all those in his power that live upon his farms. Kings can, for the most part, only exalt or degrade. The Laird at pleasure can feed or starve, can give bread, or withold it. This inherent power was yet strengthened by the kindness of consanguinity, and the reverence of patriarchal authority. The Laird was the father of the Clan, and his tenants commonly bore his name. And to these principles of original command was added, for many ages, an exclusive right of legal jurisdiction.”

              • tamsin

                Are you talking to me, or Tasmin? 😉

                Tamsin is the diminutive of Thomasina which is the female form of Thomas.

                • TheAbaum

                  Mystery solved. Cool.

                • slainte

                  You are never going to get invited to MPS’ house in Scotland for Haggis if you take this approach .: )

                  • tamsin

                    He can call me Tasmin when I’m at his house this summer.

                    • slainte

                      I think that is an eminently fair proposal.
                      .
                      You should also negotiate scones with gooseberry jam to go with the tea…following the haggis, of course.

                    • tamsin

                      When I visit my ancestral home in Scotland this summer… they will hand me a rough woolen blanket and direct me to a pile of straw in the corner of the stone hut. That will be my comfortable bed!

                    • slainte

                      Tamsin, Having just done the same thing in the west of Ireland in April, I suggest you buy an electric blanket for your bed. When you first open your house, it will be bone chillingly cold. The electric blanket will take away the coldness from the damp, and allow you to rest comfortably.
                      .
                      A cousin served me homemade gooseberry jam which I had never tried; it was awesome…hence my recommendation. I am searching for it stateside. If you come across it in Scotland, give it a try.
                      .
                      My cousins who’ve visited Scotland all recommend Edinburgh as a great destination, but I think I would be more inclined toward the Hebrides, Skye, or Iona.
                      .
                      Hope you have a great journey and a warm one!

                      Slainte

                • Michael Paterson-Seymour

                  Tamsin

                  A slip of the pen (keystroke) for which I apologize

        • hombre111

          Nicaragua under the Sandinistas tried a form of distributism, which said we must meet basic needs before we squander everything on luxuries. The immortal Ronald Reagan called it a form of communism and unleashed the Contra War.

          • TheAbaum

            Marxism with a few adornments designed to entrap the gullible is still Marxism.

          • Art Deco

            No, the Sandinista Front was a Communist Party, but one sufficiently faction-ridden that they were indecisive about courses of action and also constrained by geographic factors. That they were contending with both the Carter and the Reagan Administration limited the degree to which they could establish comprehensive control over Nicaraguan public life.

            As for ‘unleashing the Contra War’, the Reagan Administration had no opinion on ‘distributism’; they were concerned with international relations. They paid no attention to Forbes Burnham and his ‘co-operative republic’, the Marxist jabber of Burnham and his rival Cheddi Jagan notwithstanding; Burnham kept his assults on Guyana’s civil society and on American state interest within bounds.

            ‘Distributism’ is a strange way to describe a political economy wherein you had comprehensive rationing, price controls across the economy (the national wage schedule was called ‘SNOTS’ derived from the acronym of its Spanish name), state enterprise across hughe swaths of the economy, and one-tenth the population conscripted into militias. The Sandinistas managed to alienate just about every element in the political social sphere they were unable to suborn. The opposition came to include the Church, the independent trade unions, the Miskito communities, and the full spectrum of alternative political parties, up to an including the old line Communists and disgruntled Sandinista factions. Now that the vagaries of multi-party politics have allowed Daniel Ortega another turn at the wheel, they’ve taken to massive vote fraud to stay in power. The Reagan Administration had an ample supply of raw material to work with and now everyone in Nicaragua can see the Sandinistas were never trustworthy.

            • hombre111

              Sorry, but once again, I was there and you were not. During the late twenties or early thirties, the U.S. Marines invaded and occupied Nicaragua.

              Hypocrisy Check: The U. S. has invaded every country in both Americas with a boundary on the sea, along with Cuba, Haiti, Puerto Rico, and Santo Domingo. Since the Monroe Doctrine, we consider the entire Western Hemisphere our backyard, and we have not hesitated to attack. In my lifetime: Grenada, Panama, and Santo Domingo, with no apologies. And we criticize Russia for interfering with the Ukraine, which is on its very border?

              The Marines stayed in Nicaragua for until they were opposed by a man named Sandino, who led a revolt. When the Marines went home, they left a stooge in place named Samoza, who ruled as a bloody dictator. When somebody pointed this out to FDR, he said, “I know he is an SOB. But he is OUR SOB.

              Samoza was replaced by his son, who was just as bad. But finally, there was a terrible earthquake, which destroyed most of Managua. The whole world responded with money and other forms of aid. Samoza stole the money and whatever he could sell, and dumped the Red Cross blood supply in the harbor. Finally, he had robbed the rich, and not just the poor. A new revolt was on, and the revolutionaries called themselves the Sandinistas.

              Naturally, the U.S. backed Samoza, until the very end. When the Sandinistas took over, the U.S. expected that they would be good lackeys and stay within the U.S. orbit. But the Sandinistas, maybe embittered by all the U.S. had done to their country for so many years, chose to go their own way. That was their great sin. For this sin, Reagan dubbed them communists and started the Contra War. The Contras specialized in killing public health workers, road crews, and workers in tobacco farms. I know this for a fact because I spent time in Nicaragua during that time. As a priest, I buried some of those “communists,” non-soldiers who inevitably had rosaries around their necks. That night, I was listening to the short-wave radio, and heard Reagan boast: “I am a Contra, too.”

              The U.S. attacked, through its stooges, a poverty stricken country of 4 million, in the name of “national security.” The scary threat to national security was the possibility that the other countries might also seek to leave the U.S. orbit and go on their own. The aftermath lingers. Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Honduras, which was used as the Contra base, is a hell hole of armed violence, an NRA dream come true where everybody owns a gun. El Salvador and Guatamala also paid their own bloody price during this time.

              • Art Deco

                There was a Marine force in Nicaragua from 1925 to 1934. They numbered about 2,000, so too few to occupy the country but adequate to conduct operations against Sandino.

                U. S. has invaded every country in both Americas with a boundary on the
                sea, along with Cuba, Haiti, Puerto Rico, and Santo Domingo.

                All countries bar two in the Americas have a boundary on the sea, and one other is accessible up the River Plate. The United States has since 1898 maintaned Puerto Rico and a 550 sq. mi nock on the Panamanian isthmus as dependencies, and occupied for a time Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Panama, Grenada, and had forces in Nicaragua. Not exactly esoteric information, Mr. Social Studies ‘teacher’. There was a handy reference map in my 8th grade history text.

                The American occupation of Cuba ended in 1902, and the last incursion of troops there was in 1912; the occupation of the Dominican Republic lasted from 1916-24 and American troops were present in the Dominican capital for a period of months in 1965. Grenada and Panama were occupied for a period of weeks in 1983 and 1989-90, respectively. Haiti was occupied from 1916-34 and for a 15 month period in 1994-96; Haiti would have benefited from an indefinite trusteeship after 1934.

                I am not precisely sure why this is at all relevant. The Anglo-Caribbean states had much more extensive histories of dependency (but comparatively congenial politics over the last 50 years, and, in the case of Barbados and the Bahamas, a moderate affluence as well). The Latin country with the most troublesome intramural politics has been Paraguay, all told, which has no history of heavy engagement with the United States. The one with the least has been Costa Rica, which abuts your precious Sandinista Nicaragua.

                The President of Nicaragua in 1934 was Juan Bautista Sacasa, elected in 1933. The period in Latin America running from about 1920 to about 1930 was more liberal-democratic than any previous era and Nicaragua was not an exception to that general rule. However, there was a general reversion to authoritarian rule during the Depression and Nicaragua was no exception to that, either. The Nicaraguan regime had an unusual patrimonial aspect, that’s all. The Somozas were notable for their cupidity, not their brutality. Over the entire period from 1936 (when Anastasio Somoza overthrew Pres. Sacasa) to 1979, there were only a scatter of Latin countries where constitutional rule was the mode: Uruguay, Chile, Costa Rica, Colombia (in a messy and degenerate sort of way), Panama (after a fashion); there was also Mexico, which was run by political machine rather than the military or a succession of caudillos. The Somoza regime was not an artifact of American policy. Caudillo rule and military rule were simply how business was done in Latin America at that time.

                I have news for you, Nicaragua has an extensive history as just about the least affluent component of the Americas. This antedated the Sandinistas. It was certainly exacerbated by intramural warfare and the Sandinista’s policies. Keep in mind though, the Sandinistas were tremendously successful mendicants. Annual foreign donations during the period running from 1979 to 1985 might have approached about 20% of the country’s pre-war annual domestic product.

                Nicaragua elected to ally itself with a hostile foreign power and the Sandinista were increasingly at war with other elements of the civil society therein for a period of more than a decade. It’s not terribly surprising the Reagan Administration contrived to make their life as difficult as they could manage. The Nicaraguan public elected to eject the Sandinistas from office in 1990 and has never given them more than 40% of the vote in any ballot where the tallies were not falsified. Not that you care.

                • hombre111

                  I see you have begun to do some historical research. I did years of research on this subject, and then went to live in the country. So, you need to keep going.
                  Next, see how many countries were invaded by the U.S. military, and for what reason, and–since they had not attacked or threatened us–why was this morally justifiable?
                  By all means, continue with your research. A force of 2,000 heavily armed Marines backed by fighter planes, machine guns, and artillery, could not defeat Sandino, whom all Nicaraguans see as a hero, except for the rich who had joined Samoza in plundering the country. After Samoza Junior had plundered the relief money and relief supplies (I was in Managua years later, and the city had not been rebuilt) the rich finally turned against him.

                  • Art Deco

                    I see you have begun to do some historical research.

                    Condescension from an ignorant man. I luuhv it.

                  • TheAbaum

                    I see you have begun to do some historical research.

                    As with matters financial, there is no indication that you are competent to conduct “research”.

                  • Art Deco

                    “Eisenhower” never “invaded” “Santo Domingo”. The Johnson Administration placed American troops in the Dominican capital to separate two sides to a civil war. After an armistice was brokered, American troops left.

                    The Reagan Administration ejected a Communist regime in Grenada which had fallen apart into factional fighting and taken to intramural two-digit massacres. I spoke to an IR scholar the following year who had interviewed NSC officials and he tells me that one issue that kept coming up during the interviews was their anxiety over the possibility that the Coard-Austin group would take American citizens hostage. (The medical students on the island were also anxious about this).

                    I should note that contemporary polling indicated that the general public on Grenada was content with the American intervention, as was the Governor-General, Paul Scoon. A consequence of the invasion was the restoration of the parliamentary government which had been in abeyance on the island for ten years. The place has had a quiet life since. I cannot imagine why your making an issue of it now except that that’s your shtick.

                    Do you really think that Roberto d’Aubuisson’s six week course in radio repair at the School of the Americas explains who he was and why he did what he did? The institutional cultures of Latin American militaries are what they are. It’s flabbergasting that you have masses of leftoids that think that they’d all behave like Swiss Guards were it not for discrete training programs at the School of the Americas.

                    • hombre111

                      Sorry again. The truth is not built out of snippets and half truths. More reading.

                    • Art Deco

                      More reading of what?

                    • marygar

                      Who are you? Love your brilliance and honest truth. Now, I still say, it would have been nice to have seen American troops in Cuba in 1959, against a communist.

                  • Art Deco

                    Next, see how many countries were invaded by the U.S. military, and for
                    what reason, and–since they had not attacked or threatened us–why was
                    this morally justifiable?

                    I listed them for you. Latin America’s problems are not derived from this island or that island spending time under American occupation (in several cases mentioned, partial or brief occupation). It irritated members of the local political elite, but these were not necessarily particularly disinterested.

                    • hombre111

                      Sorry. When I did my research years ago, I found sources which indicated that we invaded every country with a seashore, and most of the islands. We were not attacked. Often, we were bullying some country to cave in to some American businessman. We helped topple the government in Guatamala and helped start a civil war that took 70,000 lives. All of this to help Pacific Fruit. As I said, you have barely begun your research.

                    • Art Deco

                      Sorry. When I did my research years ago, I found sources which indicated
                      that we invaded every country with a seashore, and most of the islands.

                      Next time, try history and not imaginative literature.

                    • Carl

                      It’s real simple hombre11, what would the Western states of the United States look like today if we didn’t keep it out of Mexican control? Just another corrupt region of Latin Americans and Colorado, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana would be the border states being overrun by Latinos.

                    • hombre111

                      Like somebody said, we stole it fair and square.

                    • TheAbaum

                      Maybe we can offer you as a reparation.

                    • Art Deco

                      That was S.I. Hayakawa, and he was making a joke about the Panama Canal (which we built, fair and square) and the Canal Zone (whose extant residents were compensated for their property and rights of occupancy – presumably in amounts contested).

                      And just who lived in what is now the American southwest? It was very sparsely populated and predominantly with aboriginals who had scarcely more affinity for Mexicans than they did for North Americans. The total population of Mexican peninsulares, criollos, mestizos, and mission Indians in Texas in 1836 amounted to about 3,000. New Mexico around that time had a like population in the lower 4-digits. California just made it into five digits.

                      My home town was incorporated in 1833 with a population of 14,000.

                      The area lacked for little but…actual Mexicans.

                    • hombre111

                      The U.S. made the Louisiana Purchase, and the Alaska Purchase, which contained almost no settlers at all. I am sure we considered those vast empty spaces U.S., territory. Apparently, the lack of settlers is a valid excuse, only when the mostly absent settlers are Mexican.

                    • Art Deco

                      So what? If Russia had re-taken Alaska by force in 1885, they would not have found any civil society there to displace or subjugate; the non-aboriginal population was in the low four digits. These boundaries were diplomatic courtesies. They did not delineate actual societies and settlements.

                    • TheAbaum

                      Once again, you are not competent to conduct “research”. You lack technical knowledge and an objective mind.

                • marygar

                  Would have been nice to have seen American troops present in Cuba in 1959. Unfortunately, the CIA favored Castro over a decent politician like Marquez-Sterling for instance.

              • Carl

                First, it’s the criminal organizations like the Mexican Zetas and Sinaloa drug cartels that have capitalized on Honduras’ weakness and are now fully operational within the country. Honduras is basically a battle field for Drug lords in part thanks to Mexico’s crank down on itself.
                Second, if citizens couldn’t own guns the violence would be even worse.
                And lastly, if Mexico is such a great example of a state institution why do a third of all Mexicans live in the United States? Where the murder rate is at least three times less!

                • hombre111

                  There would be no drug wars in Honduras and Mexico, were it not for the thirst for illegal drugs in the U.S.. Not sure how you can prove “if citizens couldn’t own guns the violence would be even worse.” American Catholics should be grateful for the arrival of Mexicans. Without their devout presence, the U.S. Church would be shrinking.

                  • thebigdog

                    “Not sure how you can prove “if citizens couldn’t own guns the violence would be even worse.””

                    Simple, just research the cities in the U.S. with the most stringent gun laws and you will find that they are also the cities with the highest murder rates.

                    • Hombre111

                      You will not confuse me with facts!

                      My mind is made up, already.

                    • Art Deco

                      One might also point out that homicide rates in small towns and rural areas outside the South tend to be quite low (1.14 per 100,000 in non-metropolitan counties in New York) in spite of the omnipresence of sport hunting.

                      You go to the Genesee Valley, you see that two-thirds of the homicides are in a section of central Rochester which comprehends just 10% of the population of the whole region. Gun ownership in the suburbs and the countryside did not cause that. Predation and the honor culture within demographic segments in that section of town caused that. Pestering gun owners in Geneseo will not help you. More boots on the ground in the Rochester slums will.

                    • hombre111

                      All that proves is that the laws did not stop people, usually gang bangers, from getting guns. Expand the discussion to states and countries with or without an abundance of guns, and the difference is incredible.

                    • Hombre111fan

                      Yeah man, you tell him. You are brilliant.

                    • Art Deco

                      Household ownership of firearms is nearly universal in Switzerland; the homicide rate is 0.7 per 100,000. Guns are tools. They are used for those things people intend to use them.

                  • Art Deco

                    There would be no drug wars in Honduras and Mexico, were it not for the thirst for illegal drugs in the U.S..

                    Oh, for pity sake. There are high crime rates all over Latin America and the Caribbean. The two places which escape are Chile, a place which has been assiduous about developing functioning legal institutions, and Uruguay, which is also an outlier on a number of dimensions. Homicide rates of 13 to 25 per 100,000 are the norm south of the border, drug trade or no drug trade. One place that has made a great deal of progress in recent years in improving public order is Colombia, which has cut its homicide rate in half. They didn’t do it by striking attitudes.

                    • hombre111

                      Lived in Colombia for years. The usual corruption. They nationalized the police force, which means that it is part of the army, and police officers carry automatic weapons. At every crossroads there is a military checkpoint, and so a person on a relatively short journey might have to pass such a point, called a “reten,” three for four times.
                      I will always remember the last checkpoint on the way to a famous archeological park. The sign read, “Warning, you are about to enter bandit territory. Police forces cannot guarantee your security. Keep your weapons handy!”
                      So, we kept driving, unarmed. We went around a bend and there were some cowboys blocking the road, trying to get a cow out of a bog. That was a favorite guerilla (The FLN) ambush ploy. We held our breath, bracing for bullets. But it was only a cow stuck in the mud.

                    • Art Deco

                      Lived in Colombia for years.

                      Yeah, just like you visited John Geoghan in prison and listened to Elden Curtiss tell dirty jokes in Alabama.

                    • Jdonnell

                      What is for pity’s sake is your attempt to justify the Reagan administration’s support for the criminal military in Nicaragua. Only recently, and to almost no reporting–has the head of that former military ordered to be deported from the US for his leadership of a criminal enterprise–the Nicaraguan military–during the years when Reagan was secretly and illegally supplying that military with CIA advice and arms.

                    • Art Deco

                      The ‘military’ in Nicaragua consisted of two forces, the “National Guard”, which was constituted out of extant forces in 1934 and disbanded in 1979, and the Sandinista Army, which was constituted out of insurrectional forces in 1979 and is still in place. Mr. Reagan was in office from 1981 to 1989, so he could not have ‘supported’ the National Guard as it no longer existed. The Reagan Administration was famously antagonistic to the Sandinista regime, so they were not ‘supporting’ that military force either.

                      When you’ve ceased to be hopelessly confused, get back to me.

                    • Jdonnell

                      I apologize for running together two sets of Reagan administration crimes. When I referred to the Nicaraguan military, I misspoke: I meant the military of El Salvador, which, like the Contras in Nicaragua, were funded by the US, which enabled the Salvadoran military to slaughter over 70,000 Salvadorans, mostly peasants. The head of the Salvadoran military, Gen. Vides Casanova headed the Salvadoran military during most of that time and has been ordered to leave the US for his actions (and inactions in preventing his troops from operating death squads). During that time, the nuns were murdered, as was Bp. Oscar Romero, shot with ammunition paid for by Reagan using US taxpayers’ money. Just after Vides Casanova stepped down, his successors were involved in the murder of the six Jesuits. Call them “Communists,” as if that would justify murder and assassination. In Nicaragua, it was the murderous Contras that American taxes funded. Though it had become illegal, Reagan operatives like the militant Oliver North, Reagan officials John Poindexter, Edwin Meese, Wm Casey, etc. willingly facilitated illegal arms sales. Despite North’s attempt to destroy evidence, eleven people were convicted in criminal court. If Crisis Mag. aficionados want to believe that the US was involved in a “moral crusade” by aiding and abetting slaughter, that only shows how hopelessly ignorant they are of both politics and what Christianity is all about.

                    • Art Deco

                      The total death toll in the Salvadorean civil war was around 70,000 over a period of 13 years. I do not know how you got the idea that the Communist guerillas or various paramilitaries or the police for had no guns and never shot anyone. The country was in a state of civil war because the various communist parties preferred it that way, built their forces throughout the period running from 1969 to 1979, and received ample aid from Cuba through Nicaragua. It was not until 1987 that they were willing to consider an armistice (which was finally negotiated over the period running from 1989 to 1992).

                      Gen. Vides Casanova was an officer in the rural constabulary, not the army. He did a tour as defense minister at one point, but the force in which he made his career was not a component of the defense ministry. There were no general officers in the Salvadoran army after 1979. They were all packed off into exile.

                      Bp. Romero was assassinated in 1980. Mr. Reagan was not in office at that time. The perpetrator was a member of a paramilitary organization associated with Roberto d’Aubuisson, not a regular soldier. American military and economic aid was quite modest at that time (a seven digit sum, and directed at the government, not private paramilitary forces).

                      El Salvador is a poor country with a lot of street crime and gang violence. It’s also a constitutional republic with a broad array of parties which work within the extant electoral systems. They’ve never opted for what Salvador Cayetano Carpio and others were proffering in 1979, for good reason.

                    • Jdonnell

                      Seventy thousand deaths is a conservative figure, first of all. All studies conclude that most of the deaths were caused by Salvadoran military either in uniform or acting in after hrs. death squads with the full consent of the military. The US promoted the butchery by supplying the likes of Robt. d”Aubisson with the guns, bullets, and encouragement to kill at will. All those clergy I cited were hardly “Communist,” except in the thinking of political Neanderthals. Your remark about Vides Casanova is completely false and indicative of your ignorance. From having been the head of the National Guard, then promoted to defense minister during those bloody times, when torture and murder of peasants was the order of the day. In a US court, the families of the nuns brought charges against him and were awarded $54 million dollars. The gangs you mention arose after the war, when young exiles returned from Southern California, where they had become members of that state’s gang culture. El Salvador is a mess, in large part as a result of US interference in that country’s affairs.

                    • Art Deco

                      The notion that d’Aubuisson’s organization was supplied by the U.S. government has no reality outside your addled head. He was a continuous irritant to the U.S. Embassy from 1980 until his death and once concocted a plot to have the U.S. Ambassador assassinated. Mr. Pickering was not amused.

                      The Salvadoran National Guard was a rural constabulary, not a component of the military. It also had wretched discipline and its ground level forces supplemented their incomes with retainers from local landowners.

                      Calling me ignorant is pretty rich since you’ve made repeated gross errors in this discussion.

                    • Jdonnell

                      Your continuing denial and smoke-blowing to diminish the importance of Gen. Vides Casanova in conducting El Salvador’s military, despite the fact that he was both head of then Nat. Guard and then promoted to minister of defense–the top position in the military–is an example of what G. K. Chesterton refers to as a modern combination of “intellectualism and ignorance.” A trial and later a deportation hearing in the US have shown repeatedly that he was deeply implicated in the killing and torture of Salvadoran peasants. During this time, figures like Major d’Aubisson operated with impunity in torture and murder, most conspicuously in El Mozote, where death squads wrought mayhem in torturing and killing at least 800 people in one action. All this was done using US aid, with only occasional pro forma objections from the State Dept., but otherwise giving a wink and a nod. Former US Ambassador Robert White testified on the matter during the Gen. Vides trial and hearing. Even the sleazy Eliot Abrams, Reagan’s Asst. Sec. of State, bragged that the US “supervised U.S. policy in Latin America.” During the time when the Salvadoran military was carrying out its years of slaughter against its people, the US supplied it with aid to the tune of $6 billion. I have supplied enough facts, though I am certain that they won’t alter the minds of Dittoheads.

                    • Art Deco

                      Your continuing denial and smoke-blowing to diminish the importance of Gen. Vides Casanova in conducting El Salvador’s military

                      I have nothing to say about him. He was one official in a disagreeable situation brought to a conclusion more than 20 years ago. You’re fixated on him and on a scatter of other vignettes from that war.

                      Political decision-makers (e.g. Elliot Abrams) do not choose the matrices in which they make decisions. Also, political institutions are commonly not hierarchical and disciplined. This is particularly so in Central America.

                      This whole situation was brought to a conclusion more than 20 years ago, there were no forces at the time with any muscle who were predominantly benign, and El Salvador’s current problems are the sort which require incremental institutional development irrelevant to the battles being fought ca. 1984, I cannot figure why this would be of interest to you except that you’re the sort of snot for whom political discussion is an exercise in serial attitudinizing (ignorant attitudinizing in your case). Buzz off.

                    • Jdonnell

                      That you conclude with name-calling only underscores your pathetic argument in attempting to get Vides off the hook. Any “attitudinizing” going on is all on your part; I’ve given facts–most of which you’ve ignored. It’s impossible, as your empty reply illustrates. The Salvadoran legacy of crime and disruption is the result of US military aid to a totally corrupt military that committed torture and murder on a wholesale level. You claim that I overstate the death toll, when I give the most conservative figure that no expert disputes. You try to minimize Gen. Vides’s role in the military, even though he was its highest ranking official. What the lack of “benign” forces in that country in the 1980s, they would have been far more benign without all the encouragement and military hardware that the US put into their hands.
                      You wonder why this would be of interest to me, since all this happened in the 1980s. (That wonderment itself is tantamount to your throwing in the towel, while pretending that it slipped out of your hand.) My tax money contributed to that slaughter, just as it has more recently in Iraq and Libya and Syria, where illegal and immoral US foreign policy operated under the aegis of policy-advisors like Eliot Abrams. The Salvadoran killers and their bosses are still alive, some just recently facing their accusers, as in the deportation hearing of Gen. Vides, where survivors of the nuns were present. Amb. White, kicked out for objecting to US aid to crooks and killers (some of whom are currently basking in the Florida sun–as is Gen. Vides), also acknowledged the importance of not simply dropping the matter, as you imply should be done. As a final note, it is significant that as a reader of the Catholic mag., Crisis, you ignore my citing all those Catholic clergy–nuns, priests, a bishop, peasants–who were killed with guns and bullets paid for by US taxpayers through their govt. Amb. White is also a Catholic, one who takes morality seriously and doesn’t support murder under the guise of fighting “communism.”

                    • Art Deco

                      You’re fixated on Vides Casanova. I do not know why, but you are. Not my problem.

                      El Salvador had, in 1979, an extensive history and a habitual pattern of social relations. Not a happy place. Properties of the conflict after 1979 were derived from that history and those patterns.

                      Amb. Pickering and Sec. Abrams and the commander of the U.S. military mission were not in a position to run some sort of MacArthur regency to reconstruct the place top to bottom or even fix the bloody land tenures (efforts toward which failed). What they could do was train the military, finance a counter-insurgency and attempt to broker a settlement between warring parties. Eventually, that was accomplished.

                      For all your verbiage, you lack even coarse granular knowledge of the war (fastening on the human interest stories which were played on continuous loop at the time) and cannot be bothered with contemplating actual options the salient officials had at the time.

                      Another time, another place, you might just see the value of listening as well as talking.

                    • Jdonnell

                      Your vanity and smoke-blowing are no substitutes for the facts. Your mushy talk of Abrams in such benign roles as “to train the military,” etc., cooperated in the unstated policy of terror against the Salvadoran populace. Your characterization of my use of specifics (v. your vague pontifications) you dismiss as “human interest stories.” So much for the murders of the American nuns, Bp. Romero–murdered while saying Mass, or the six Jesuits, all killed with US funded weapons. To you, they are just human interest stories, and your adding to that phrase that they were “played on continuous loop at the time” only emphasizes your dismissal of those murders as trivia. They weren’t treated as widely as you suggest, even though they deserved the widest possible publicity if only to show what those we funded. War is about killing, and killing is about human beings, something that is too easy to forget when indulging in vapid talk about policy.
                      Your defensive tone suggests your own implication in this US funded state terrorism in El Salvador. Lots of Americans are guilty of supporting it, As for no other options that you claim, Amb. White called for other options and was sacked for doing so. That’s all I will say on this issue; my repetition of points is the result of your having ignored them. Maybe it’s you who needs to do some listening to something, instead of reacting with the knee-jerk defensiveness of govt. pimps for murder.

                    • Art Deco

                      You keep repeating yourself. Your non-argument does not improve with repetition.

                  • Art Deco

                    Without their devout presence, the U.S. Church would be shrinking.

                    The fruits of our lousy clergy.

                    • hombre111

                      The fruits of our diminishing clergy. In my diocese, there were 107 priests in 1979. Now there are 43, serving a flock whose numbers have tripled. We are not getting the best of the best.
                      I saw an article that made me chuckle. Some biologists have discovered what seems to be a religious gene. The Church, in her wisdom, has chosen to cull the naturally devout out of the gene pool, by forcing them to live celibate lives. And so, maybe, that gene pool is empty.

                    • Art Deco

                      The census of people attending Mass each week in this country has declined by a third since 1963. That’s not derived from a ‘diminishing clergy’.

                  • TheAbaum

                    Apparently, the American clergy that has been so successful in maintaining a vibrant indigenous flock is beginning to work their magic on Latinos as well.

                    http://www.pewforum.org/2014/05/07/the-shifting-religious-identity-of-latinos-in-the-united-states/

                    Perhaps the best reason to oppose unlimited immigration and amnesty is the preservation of souls.

            • hombre111

              CHAPTER TWO

              Samoza was replaced by his son. But finally, there was a terrible earthquake, which destroyed most of Managua. The whole world responded with money and other forms of aid. Samoza stole the money and whatever he could sell, and dumped the Red Cross blood supply in the harbor. Finally, he had robbed the rich, and not just the poor. A new revolt was on, and the revolutionaries called themselves the Sandinistas.

              Naturally, the U.S. backed Samoza, until the very end. When the Sandinistas defeated Samoza, the U.S. expected that they would be good lackeys and stay within the U.S. orbit. But the Sandinistas, maybe embittered by all the U.S. had done to their country for so many years, chose to go their own way. That was their great sin. For this sin, Reagan dubbed them communists and started the Contra War. The Contras specialized in killing public health workers, road crews, and workers in tobacco farms. I know this for a fact because I was in Nicaragua during that time, and I buried “communists,” non-soldiers who inevitably had rosaries around their necks. One night, I was listening to the short-wave radio, and heard Reagan boast: “I am a Contra, too.” The old fool went to God and I am sure he is still trying to explain away the innocent blood on his hands.

              The U.S. had attacked, through its stooges, a poverty stricken country of 4 million, in the name of “national security.” The scary threat to national security was the possibility that the other countries might also seek to leave the U.S. orbit and go on their own.

              The aftermath lingers. Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Honduras, which was used as the Contra base, is a hell hole of armed violence, an NRA dream come true, where everybody owns a gun. El Salvador and Guatamala also paid their own bloody price during this time.

              • marygar

                Oh for pete’s sakes, really???? You bring a Rosary into your warped thinking? Che, Chavez, and even Castro carried Rosaries. Get real. Did you ever hear of the “angel of light?”

            • hombre111

              Sorry, but once again, I was there and you were not. Here is the story in two chapters.

              CHAPTER ONE

              During the late twenties or early thirties, the U.S. Marines invaded and occupied Nicaragua.

              HYPOCRISY CHECK: The U. S. has invaded EVERY country in both Americas with a boundary on the sea, along with Cuba, Haiti, Puerto Rico, and Santo Domingo. Since the Monroe Doctrine, we consider the entire Western Hemisphere our backyard, and we have not hesitated to attack mostly to gain some advantage for U.S. business interests. In my lifetime: Grenada, Panama, and Santo Domingo, with no apologies. And we criticize Russia for interfering with the Ukraine, which is on its very border?

              The Marines stayed in Nicaragua until a man named Sandino led a revolt they could not crush. . When the Marines gave up and went home, they left a stooge in place named Samoza, who tricked Sandino with an offer of peace, murdered him, and then ruled as a tyrant in America’s name. When somebody pointed this out to FDR, he said, “I know he is an SOB. But he is OUR SOB.

        • Jdonnell

          Anyone interested in Chesterton would enjoy the essay on him by the late Simon Leys in his “The Hall of Uselessness.” Some of the quotations from Chesterton on the state of modern culture (made in 1926) are more true today than then.

    • Art Deco

      Chesterton’s ideas and those of his successor were pretty sketchy. I’d hesitate to call it a system. The only economist who contributes to The Chesterton Review is a fellow named Race Matthews. The leading spirit is a man name John Medaille, who professes to believe that contemporary economics is nonsense.

  • hombre111

    Congratulations. Your article is a triumph. If we were to take it seriously, it has tremendous economic and political implications.

  • Art Deco

    For Dawson, the bourgeois soul worships wealth and earthly prosperity above God, and thus practices a new secular religion.

    Where have I heard this before. Ah yes..

    “His name was George F. Babbitt. He was forty-six years old now, in April,
    1920, and he made nothing in particular, neither butter nor shoes nor
    poetry, but he was nimble in the calling of selling houses for more than
    people could afford to pay.”

    Leaving aside the question of whether or not Staudt or Lewis fairly represents Dawson’s view, it helps in circumstances such as these to insert the name of a random individual you know and see if the sentence makes sense (a rough method recommended by Elaine Morgan for a critical reading of pop anthropology). How doe this sound, “Mr. Pierson worships wealth and earthly prosperity above God, and thus practices a new secular religion”?

    The real Mr. Pierson is retired real estate agent. His son runs the business now. His family’s been in the same once rural now suburban township for several generations now. He’s been married to the same woman since 1968. He, his parents, his sister, his children, and even some of his cousins have long lived within ready driving distance from each other, in that township or the next ones over. I’ve never heard anyone say he was a disagreeable man with whom to do business.

    The vast majority of ‘bourgeois’ are salaried employees or small businessmen who are, in their mundane life, satisficers rather than optimizers. They are ambitious to make an agreeable living and assure a comfortable retirement for themselves. The really troublesome ones therein are those who lose sight of the dignity of others and fancy the world ought to be under their tutelage. See Alvin Gouldner and Thomas Sowell on this crew (or contemplate the life and works of Anthony Kennedy). Its doubtful that intellecualoids like Lewis or Dawson were critiquing this crew, but they should have.

    Years ago, after AOL merged with Time-Warner, someone in the camarilla of Steve Case of AOL discussed with a business reporter (not for attribution) what they’d done when they took over another company. “We fired everyone. We’ll do that here.” People from the same crew then began ridiculing Gerald Levin of Time-Warner (a man of accomplishment) behind his back. An alienating bit of business, that. There was a book penned a few years ago about the intramural culture of Lehman Brothers which was alienating in a different way, in that it revealed a cupidity that few can imagine much less share. The thing is, the demographic segment that alienates is influential but no more than a rasher of the business world. The numerous bourgeois are those who prepare your taxes, inspect your tonsils, and do your dry cleaning. It’s doubtful they worship money. They do, however, have to pay their bills and pay down their debts.

  • Brian O’Leary

    A very good and thought provoking article. However, I would disagree with the argument that ‘the problem is not capitalist economics, but rather the mind or soul with which it is practiced and the lack of a genuine religious framework to guide it.’ If 200+ years of capitalism has thought is anything, it is that it is the harbinger of secularism and atheism. Capitalism requires growth to be sustainable, and growth requires that consumer demand is consciously stoked by capitalists. Capitalism thus necessitates promoting aggressive individualism and the pursuit of greater material wealth, eroding the traditional values and social conscience fostered by the Church. How did the germ of atheism and secularism enter our modern society, and why do they make the biggest inroads in western capitalist economies?

    • Art Deco

      Affluence and a distance from subsistence can cloud one’s judgment.

      That aside, ‘ere chuffering about abstractions like ‘capitalism’, you might get down to brass tacks and ask what an optimal system of production, trade, and consumption might look like. (You might also give some thought as to how your going to prohibit refinements in division of labor and technological adaptations in order to avoid the dreaded economic ‘growth’.

      • Brian O’Leary

        I’m afraid I don’t quite grasp where your comment about “affluence and distance from subsistence” is aimed towards.

        An economic system – be it capitalism, fuedalism, socialism, etc. – is not an abstraction, it is a concrete reality. Certainly when they are put into practice through social and economic relations. Just ask those pushed into poverty through capitalism or pushed into famine by socialism – very concrete realities. Nor is the growth of secularism and atheism in capitalist societies mere abstractions. Clearly there is a correlation between the two threads, and that is something worth looking into.

        I have indeed asked what an optimal system of production, trade, and consumption might look like. Luckily the Catholic Church has produced quite a bit of material on this question, the 1891 encyclical Rerum Novarum with its critiques of the Capitalist and Socialist systems is a good place to start.

        For an anonymous poster on the internet (and in particular on a Catholic website), perhaps you should question the Christian charity of using terms like “chuffering” – not knowing me, I cannot imagine you are in a position to pass judgement on the lack (or otherwise) of action on my part.

        • TheAbaum

          “An economic system – be it capitalism, fuedalism, socialism, mercantilism, etc. – is not an abstraction, it is a concrete reality.”

          No. The free market is the absence of a “system”, it emerges and has emerged wherever are or have been present.

          Two grade school children swapping peanut butter and jelly for baloney are engaging in such an exchange, of course they might be more economically sophisticated and less pretentious than the agoraphobics that cloak themselves in false piety and frequent Crisis.

          • Brian O’Leary

            I believe it is unrealistic to suggest that the free market is the “absence of a system”. The free market requires specific laws specially designed to control how economic transactions are carried out. If there were no such laws in place – i.e. the absence of a system – you would have an anarchic situation whereby the physically strong could unduly dictate the economic choices of weaker economic actors. The capitalist system requires a system of laws and regulations that ensure such eventualities do not happen.

            It is a pity that you resort to personal attacks at the end of your post, as it is obvious you are indeed capable of forming good arguments. However, “playing the man and not the ball” casts your ability to have an articulated and civil discussion in a poor light.

            • Art Deco

              The free market requires specific laws specially designed to control how economic transactions are carried out.

              No. You have social practice which emerges in the context of extant law. Also, the law itself was in the first instance a body of precedents derived from decisions in actual disputes over property and rights.

              • Brian O’Leary

                This doesn’t really fit with what we know about the emergence of the free market system from feudal controlled economies. Look at England in the 1600s and America in the late 1700s – they both required a huge change in laws – literally a revolution – to ensure that the elites of the day (aristocratic and colonial) did not have a monopoly over the economic resources of either society.

                • Art Deco

                  This doesn’t really fit with what we know about the emergence of the free market system from feudal controlled economies.

                  Oh yes it does.

                  Look at England in the 1600s and America in the late 1700s – they both required a huge change in laws

                  No. The salient legal changes in 18th century England concerned enclosure of common lands. In the 19th century, they concerned repeal of mercantilist legislation.

                  Salient for America was the excision of parliamentary statutes. The most troublesome legislative tangles concerned statutes governing slave labor.

                  • Brian O’Leary

                    Hmm, well you readily admit that legal changes did indeed occur in both cases, so I really don’t know what more to say to you on that front! The enclosure acts were radical alterations to English land law which ushered in one of the most radical change in the control over land, one of the most important forms of capital that there is, especially in a developing capitalist society. How you could deny that the enclosure acts were huge changes is beyond me.

                    As for America, in many respects Britain was well on the way to free trade capitalism and had many of its hallmarks in operation. However, Britain was a colonial master which dictated terms to the American colonies and passed laws which while retaining freedoms for those at home passed laws to ensure that trade with the colonies were to Britain’s advantage. How huge were the changes to law involved in this case? Well they needed an 8 year war with around 50,000 deaths to accomplish that change!

                    • Art Deco

                      I see your assessment of the economic impact of a nexus of legal changes is measured in terms of metrics adhering to antecedent historical events (without regard to whether the legal changes were the motor of the events).

                      Performance measured in terms of inputs: the mental habit of the school administrator.

                    • Art Deco

                      There were legal changes. This does not render systems of free exchange an artifact dreamed up in the 18th century.

            • Art Deco

              It is a pity that you resort to personal attacks

              Guess it hit home.

              • Brian O’Leary

                How so?

            • TheAbaum

              “The free market requires specific laws specially designed to control how economic transactions are carried out.”

              The free market requires trust and you’ve confused laws with statutes.

            • TheAbaum

              “It is a pity that you resort to personal attacks at the end of your post, as it is obvious you are indeed capable of forming good arguments.”

              That was a generalization of a large contingent of posters here. If you identify with it enough to take offense, that’s revealing.

        • Art Deco

          I’m afraid I don’t quite grasp

          It’s a qualification on what follows. I think you’ve confounded problems which arrive from economic systems with problems in human nature which have signature expressions. The expression in this case would be that which you see under conditions of mass affluence.

          Luckily the Catholic Church has produced quite a bit of material on this
          question, the 1891 encyclical Rerum Novarum with its critiques of the
          Capitalist and Socialist systems is a good place to start.

          Chum, the most salient puzzle in the social encyclicals (Rerum Novarum) is that concerning how a conscientious proprietor or public official might implement them. They rule out certain approaches to political economy, but that’s about all. Otherwise, they are confusing.

          There have been times and places (such as the early 19th century in Britain) where economic historians can verify that the wage-earning population was suffering a decline in its living standards; certain work rules which came into vogue in the United States after 1820 were more disagreeable to wage earners than what preceded them. However, you would very seldom correctly attribute ‘poverty’ to ‘capitalism’, ‘Poverty’ is the default state of mankind. People are not ‘pushed into poverty’ by ‘capitalism’. People can lose their livlihood from technological shocks. What are you going to do about it?

          • Brian O’Leary

            I must say, I haven’t found the social encyclicals puzzling or confusing at all, particularly not Rerum Novarum. You must bear in mind that it is a critique of particular economic systems and of revolution – it is not a guide to electoral politics or a step-by-step “how to” implentation guide: particularly as it would be impossible to have a one-size-fits-all for states of wildly varying administrative and political structures.

            I can’t see how you’ve reasoned that poverty is the default state of mankind or what even suggests that it is the default state of mankind. Certainly if you went to an uncontacted tribe in the Amazon they will not possess televisions, cars, etc. – but you couldn’t call them impoverished for that. They will have social structures of their own making which would be impossible to graft on to a modern, large-scale society, but I don’t know of any empirical evidence that poverty is default.

            I would argue that capitalism does indeed push people into poverty – and indeed there is empirical evidence that suggests that the rich get richer and the poor poorer. This is especially true on an intergenerational level.

            What am I going to do about it you ask? I am not sure why you want to know, or what it matters. For my part, I involve myself in groups that tries to assist families to break the cycle of poverty that they are trapped in, and also that promote Church social teaching locally and to politicians that aims at tackling the poverty trap on a wider basis. Personally, I believe that while alms-giving in itself is a noble act, it is also important to tackle the structural factors which keep families in poverty. As Blessed Frederic Oznam said: “You must not be content with tiding the poor over the poverty crisis: you must study their condition and the injustices which brought about such poverty, with the aim of a long term improvement.” It is only by tackling these injustices that poverty can be eradicated, and it is incumbent on all humanity regardless of religion to work towards that end.

            • Art Deco

              I must say, I haven’t found the social encyclicals puzzling or confusing at all, particularly not Rerum Novarum

              You haven’t thought matters through.

              I can’t see how you’ve reasoned that poverty is the default state of
              mankind or what even suggests that it is the default state of mankind.

              Look at some economic statistics or read some ethnographies and you’ll get the idea.

              I would argue that capitalism does indeed push people into poverty – and
              indeed there is empirical evidence that suggests that the rich get
              richer and the poor poorer.

              You would be wrong over any extended time scale bar where you have some pathological element, e.g. natural resource bonanzas

              What am I going to do about it you ask? I am not sure why you want to know, or what it matters.

              I’m suggesting you quit with the word play and ponder what an actual set of social relations might look like, informed by scholarship about how things tend to play out in practice, in the market, in the family, and in the interstices between them. Understanding that matters.

              • Brian O’Leary

                Understanding that matters – presumably by understanding you mean that I should agree with you?

                As for “quit with the word play”, this is a comment section of an online article, what do you want: an 80,000 word thesis? Besides the fact that you have no idea what my background is or what my research in the field to date has been, we’re both just at “word play” as far as engaging in this little discussion is concerned.

                Telling me “you would be wrong”, “you haven’t really thought matters through”, don’t counter what I’ve said – it just shows that you don’t agree with me, which I think is self-evident at this point.

                As for your suggestion that I read some economic statistics/ethnographies: I’m familiar with the economic side of things, which has led me to my current informed beliefs. But if you’d like to suggest some other economic work or ethnographies which back up your opinions I’m always eager to challenge my own views by looking at it from another angle.

                • Art Deco

                  Brian, if you fancy Rerum Novarum is a guide to commercial practice, I cannot help you.

                  As for “quit with the word play”, this is a comment section of an online article, what do you want: an 80,000 word thesis?

                  No, and that is an irrelevant response to my complaint.

                  Besides the fact that you have no idea what my background is

                  No, and I don’t give a damn.

                  I’m familiar with the economic side of things, which has led me to my current informed beliefs.

                  No, you’re not, or you wouldn’t have thought it odd that I said poverty is the default state of mankind.

                  My suggestion is as it has been, that you assess not abstractions but banal and everyday economic activity.

                • TheAbaum

                  “I’m familiar with the economic side of things, which has led me to my current informed beliefs. ”

                  Elaborate on what you consider “familiar with the economic side of things”.

              • TheAbaum

                “I must say, I haven’t found the social encyclicals puzzling or confusing at all, particularly not Rerum Novarum. ”

                People who’ve never played golf pick up treatises on it and find them to be breezy quick reads too.

        • Nick_Palmer3

          The most thoughtful and thorough and Catholic writing on the topic of “the correct” economic system is Fr. Maciej Zieba’s “Papal Economics: The Catholic Church on Democratic Capitalism, from Rerum Novarum to Caritas in Veritate.” Although the author walks through the serial papal writing sequentially, he carefully places each in relationship to its time (i.e., historical context), the writing pope’s own personal experiences and expertise, and the previous writings. Fr. Zieba is exceptionally well versed in economics, and quite a good writer.

          A flaw in Brian’s commentary is taking Rerum as a standalone document, and taking it out of context. I must admit that as a political conservative I had reflexively resisted some of Leo XIII’s commentary. Reading Zieba tamed my demons, and helped me better to see the truth in the pope’s writing.

          At it’s core, and in sympathy with the Chestertonians, the key flaws in today’s caricature of capitalism are the emphasis on the individual as an “atom” over a more social and family-basic understanding, and using economic calculation as a starting point and be-all for analysis. He criticizes the situation where “the main organizing force of Western society is consumption.”

          To quote part of his closing synopsis: “To survive and flourish, the market economy and democratic politics must recognize the fundamental importance of transcendent truth and create a vigorous cultural system capable of preserving an ‘anthropological minimum,’ that common vision of dignity of man shared by people of different religions and world views.” (page 191)

    • TheAbaum

      “If 200+ years of capitalism has thought is anything, it is that it is the harbinger of secularism and atheism. Capitalism requires growth to be sustainable, and growth requires that consumer demand is consciously stoked by capitalists. ”

      That is patent nonsense.

      First, capitalism (or more precisely the free market, not Marx’ derogatory term) is not 200+ years old, it’s 20,000. The great novelty of the last two centuries is statism, in all it’s forms. I grew up near a place on the Susquehanna River that was a major ice age trading post 10-20 THOUSAND years ago and the world is full of archaeological sites from thousands of years ago that were the agora-the market place.

      Capitalism doesn’t require growth to be sustainable, it provides the growth that other institutions need to be sustainable, especially the government.

      The “germ of atheism” wasn’t some appendage of commerce, but statism. Atheism was the dream of “intellectuals” and pseudo-intellectuals, not traders. It was a canon of Marx. It was installed as the of the land wherever the state decided it needed to remove the opposition of faith. The USSR & its satellites, Nazi Germany, Cuba, were all statist enterprises.

      • Art Deco

        Trade may date from the neolithic era. Certain forms of productive enterprise are early modern innovations, refined during the long 19th century. To take one example, patterns of trust in occidental societies such as early modern Britain were such that into that era you would seldom if ever commission others to trade on behalf of your house. You traveled and did that personally, or commissioned family members. Industrial organization also grew more variegated, starting with handicrafts and mills executed by proprietors, extending thence to putting-out systems, extending thence to factory systems with a division of labor between finance, administration, and actual manufacture.

        • TheAbaum

          “Trade may date from the neolithic era. ”

          Actually, the site in question (Coxton Railroad Yards, Duryea/Pittston, PA) was the subject of an extensive archeological dig by the Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission.

          It dated to the last ice age, which ended about 10,000 BC, so it likely predated the neolothic era.

        • Michael Paterson-Seymour

          A market in foreign bills of exchange began in London at the very beginning of the 14th century. London woollen merchants received bills from the Flemish weaving towns and sold them to drapers and mercers wishing to import finished cloth.from Flanders
          A similar market developed with the Hansa towns of Germany.

      • Art Deco

        I think you’ve confused the instrument – the state – with the aspirations and aims of the classes who seek to use it. The New Class is a problem. Public employees in general, not so much.

        • TheAbaum

          Let me introduce you to something called the Pennsylvania State Education Association.

          • Art Deco

            Of course public employee unions are a crooked bit of business.

            The National Education Association is a quondam professional association which represents a bourgeois occupational group. Salient here is the role of the teachers’ colleges in erecting dysfunctional certification screens, propagating pedagogic fads, and propagating rancid social ideology conjoined to pedagogic fads. This remains true in those loci which do not allow unionization of public employees.

            Again, your problem with your garbage collectors, highway department, and county clerk’s office has to do with poor labor discipline, subopitmal recruitment methods, rent seeking confederations, and opaque and commonly excessive compensation. These are bad policies (which are a tendency in the political order but not inevitable). There’s nothing wrong with the occupational culture of construction workers, office clerks, or trash collectors per se. Not so the legal profession (or the teaching profession, while we’re at it).

            • TheAbaum

              “This remains true in those loci which do not allow unionization of public employees.”

              All of the lunacies you cite may exist in other jurisdictions.

              However, in Pennsylvania the teachers unions are a force to be reckoned with.

              Hence, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Wolf (in sheep’s clothing, he’s a recycled Rendell bureaucrat masquerading as a conscientious business man) ran ads during the primarily where he said with a straight face that he would enact a gas extraction tax to fund our public schools “for a change”, as if the onerous property taxes aren’t enough.

              Among my relatives are several teachers, and a school superintendent. The latter, is in a sleepy little district and makes in excess of six figures.

              The PSEA maintains it’s office on the street in front of the Capitol for a reason.

            • tamsin

              The National Education Association is a quondam professional association which represents a bourgeois occupational group.

              Bourgeois? Not a guild? Say it ain’t so, Joe!

      • Brian O’Leary

        I would disagree that capitalism/the free market is so ancient, or at least in western Europe. If we look back at medieval Europe, or further back into ancient Greece or Rome, we see that there was not free trade but that economic relations were highly controlled by those in power. Look at serfdom in feudal times, slavery in Greece and Rome, all these are not compatible with free market capitalism. When one group come to power and have a monopoly on it (as was the case throughout European history until modern times) and use their power to promote their own interests over other economic actors, then that is neither capitalism nor the free market.

        Yes, you are quite correct that trade has been occurring for thousands of years and there is archaeological evidence to back this up, but it does not follow that the trade occurred in a free market. After all, future archaeologists will find evidence of trade in Soviet Russia, but we know that trade in Soviet Russia was not occurring in a free market.

        You have a very valid point about atheism’s connection with Marx and statist enterprises. But this doesn’t explain why religion is booming in China while atheism is booming in America.

        • Art Deco

          If we look back at medieval Europe, or further back into ancient Greece
          or Rome, we see that there was not free trade but that economic
          relations were highly controlled by those in power. Look at serfdom in
          feudal times, slavery in Greece and Rome, all these are not compatible
          with free market capitalism.

          The characteristic of the authority of the state (or parastatal bodies) did not allow them to control much of anything in the medieval period. They could influence matters, of course.

          Whether or not you have guild rules or royal edicts which attempt to dictate the terms of trade is a function of the discretion of the actors in question. Unfettered merchandise trade does not require a free labor system. Medieval states had little or nothing in the way of factor markets, but that did not preclude free trade.

          Again, the use of the term ‘capitalism’ with regard to the medieval period is anachronistic on account of technological developments and common social relations. However, ‘capitalism’ is not properly identified with free exchange or unregulated production.

        • TheAbaum

          I would disagree that capitalism/the free market is so ancient, or at least in western Europe.

          You would be wrong. There is plenty of archaeological evidence to the contrary. You wrote “200+ years of capitalism”, not “ancient”.

          Fra Luca Pacioli wrote Summa de arithmetica, geometria, proportioni et proportionalità in 1494, describing a detailed description of double entry bookkeeping. Note, I said :describing”, not inventing. There was active trade long before 200 years, contrary to your assertion.

          As for you question about China, the reason religion is flourishing is because they have tasted the fruits of having the state as a god, and it is bitter. In this country, you have clerics (we’ll assume his claim is valid, there is plenty like him) who scandalize the faithful with their permissiveness on sexuality, and their strident left-wing politics.

      • Ford Oxaal

        It is a big subject, but a quote from David Shaw’s Philosophy in Defense of Common Sense says it well: “Where there is no right to trade there is no right of property – over what one has no discretion one has no ownership. Without property there is no liberty but slavery. Hence, without fair trade there is tyranny, but where is liberty is fair trade.” …………..
        “It follows that the most perfect form of government is consistent to and conducive of the laws of economics supporting fair trade in liberty.”

        • TheAbaum

          I’m saving that. Thanks, Ford.

          • Ford Oxaal

            There is a lot of good stuff in there — if you track me down online and phone me or email, I will send you a PDF version.

            • TheAbaum

              Let me test my skills at e-snooping. It’ll be good practice for tracking down the Hombre. (hah hah)

              Are you a “jumpy” guy on facebook?

              • Ford Oxaal

                Yes. Also, — “Ford Oxaal” in quotes on a google search is me — a name so weird I am the only one…

                • TheAbaum

                  See friend request.

                  • TheAbaum

                    Dr Livingston, I presume.

        • Michael Paterson-Seymour

          I am sure the average feudal baron would have been astonished to learn that he had “no right of property” over the broad acres that he ruled with an iron hand, which were impartible, inalienable, tailzied on his heirs of line and hedged around with a mass of resolutive conditions and irritancies.

          • Ford Oxaal

            If the baron could not trade his so-called property, then he was really a hireling of sorts, constrained to pluck out eyeballs and such.

            • Michael Paterson-Seymour

              Ford Oxaal,

              That would lead to the rather interesting conclusion that, where property is limited to persons in succession, it is, in fact, ownerless. Thus, a lease for 99 years, with a prohibition on assignment or sub-letting would not be a form of property, nor would heritage left by will to “A and the heirs male of his body, whom failing to Y and the heirs of his body whomsoever.”

              On that analysis, even now, about two-thirds of the land in this country is owned by no one. A clearer example of the Bourgeois notion of property as commodity, something to be bought and sold, would be hard to imagine. Non-Bourgeois societies were far more interested in use or enjoyment, as the distinction between “dominium directum” and “dominium utile” shows.

              • Ford Oxaal

                Correct. In society, whether bourgeois, non-bourgeois, or whatever, property ownership is a matter of degree. Looking at the theoretical limits, if one has no discretion, one has no ownership. If one has total discretion, one has total ownership. The quote from Shaw is making a statement of natural law (discoverable through reason) that ought to underlie governmental / political. Shaw would say that the establishment of liberty is nature’s way of promoting ability/talent toward human excellence, and that the degree to which liberty is present, advancement of human excellence is promoted. The question of how to discover the greatest possible scope of liberty within justice would then advance the conversation into the application of natural law to “society” (which *precedes/trumps* government). In the societal context, “raw capitalism” would be an example, not of an application of liberty, but of license (might makes right). The guy with the biggest machine gun corners the market. So a society must be built upon the principles of “fair” trade (within the confines of justice, i.e., reciprocity), not “free” trade (again, might makes right). To bring all this back into the context of Dawson, I agree with Dawson’s thrust, particularly here in the U.S. But the “bourgeois” terminology, I believe, Dawson’s extensive comments to the contrary, nevertheless channels the ghost of Karl Marx, something a reasonable person should not want to do. We don’t need the “bourgeois” distinction to move society forward. And the discussion then becomes folks preaching to their various choirs, and talking cross purposes. What I like about Shaw’s work, is that it sets up the necessary support in natural law — in an intelligible and concise, dare I say, brilliant, manner — to proceed to a reasoned discussion on reciprocal application, i.e., the building up of a just Society.

                • Michael Paterson-Seymour

                  I believe that both Dawson and I are using “Bourgeois” in a pre-Marxist sense to mean “the commercial interest,” those engaged in trade or commerce, especially what may be called middle-men of all sorts.

                  I agree that, given the Marxist connotations the word now has, it is apt to be misleading; I cannot, at the moment, think of a handy synonym.

                  I agree that “property ownership is a matter of degree.” So is “owner.” In a “bourgeois” society, notions of ownership tend to be individualistic, ownership by individuals or (dissolvable) partnerships or joint-stock companies. The old notion of ownership by families (conceived of as existing through time) does not fit this model; nor does the notion of inalienable endowments of corporations, such as guilds, churches, universities, even village land, all of which fared badly under the Parliamentary Liberalism of the 19th century, that was passionate in its defence of “private property.”

                  • Ford Oxaal

                    I mean, you could say that “Bourgeois” equals “hard working” and “Parliamentary Liberalism” equals “representative government”. And that property rights have become more refined. We do still have trusts and such — it would seem much of the old notion of property remains. I think one could argue the reason that the commercial interests have overwhelmed excellence in the sense of the liberal arts and beauty with a capital ‘B’ (although *some* greatness has been produced in movies and such) is because Christianity is not a factor anymore. And Christianity is not a factor anymore because it is divided. And it is divided in the West because Protestantism, whose motto can be summed up as “justification by faith alone, good works avail nothing”, has led to relativism. So, all we need to do is re-unite Christianity in the West and convince the Protestants that the motto should change to “justification by the cross alone, good works avail everything”. Now then, we all come together, we teach virtue again, and Mary is inspired to hold off the apocalypse a bit more. Plus, there would be less teetotalism. That settles it then. Off to a Bourgeois flag waving ceremony: Memorial Day Parade in upstate New York!

      • Michael Paterson-Seymour

        In mediaeval Europe, the great obstacle to both capitalism and statism, as Lord Acton recognized, was the system of hereditary nobility, primogeniture and privilege introduced by the Barbarian (largely Teutonic) invaders.

        A military aristocracy and a territorial clergy kept the power of government within narrow bounds .and the right of conditional obedience depended on the security of a limited command.

        The Tudor despotism was only possible, because the power of the feudal nobles had been broken in the Wars of the Roses and the Tudors’ greatest supporters was the merchant class of the towns – the Bourgeoisie.

        • TheAbaum

          What does that have to do with economics or the free market?

          • Michael Paterson-Seymour

            Because an aristocracy can only exist when land, particularly, is impartible and inalienable and descends inexorably from ancestor to heir.

            Jefferson realized this when he introduced his legislation against entails and perpetuities in Virginia

            • Art Deco

              There was quite large variation in Europe in the relative dimensions of the aristocracy by the early modern period. The British aristocracy consisted of a three-digit collection of households in a country approaching 6 million in population. In Poland, one household in twelve had a title attached to it; the Bohemian aristocracy next door was, like the British, a three-digit collection of households.

              • Michael Paterson-Seymour

                That is to confine the aristocracy to the peerage or nobility.

                If one includes the landed gentry or ‘squires (in Scotland, we call them “Bonnet-Lairds”) the number is much greater and their tenures were the same.

            • TheAbaum

              Interesting discourse on the testamentary conveyances of land, but you keep addressing matters not at issue.

              • Michael Paterson-Seymour

                I should have thought that the restriction or absence of a market in land had implications, both for economics and free trade.

                • Art Deco

                  The absence of factor markets inhibits productive activity but not trade (except insofar as trade is dependent on consumer credit).

                • TheAbaum

                  Only if your view of economics is physiocratic.

    • MainlineP

      Yes, a most thought provoking article for all Christians and not just you RC. Space does not permit a full response to the question you raise concerning atheism and secularism. I’ll only list some possible causative factors, not all of them flattering to your big “C” Church. The Enlightenment with its reaction against autocratic ways of governing, and restraints on free thought and inquiry imposed by crown and Church in concert. An advance in science and scientific methods. The availability of mass publication beyond the aristocracy, who previously were the only stratum educated and well read. A new emphasis on individual rights such as freedom of speech, press, and religion (though the latter was often circumscribed).
      All these factor into the creation of a society in which questions could be (and were) raised about fundamental beliefs including the nature and existence of the almighty. For me, its the price you pay, and a necessary one, for a free market of ideas and the right to express them.

      • Brian O’Leary

        Thanks for your thoughts, you make some very interesting and valid points. However, I would suggest that you are making generalizations about Church restraints on free thought and inquiry which are only partially true. You are undoubtedly true regarding the early modern period, but the Church was a great promoter of free thought and inquiry previous to this and their was huge scope for discussion of new ideas both theological and scientific previous to this. Take for example the contrast between Church reaction to Copernicus suggesting that the sun was at the centre of the solar system in the early 1500s and when Galileo did likewise in the early 1600s. Even then, the Church had originally been the chief backer of Galileo’s inquiries into his innovations. But yes, I would agree with you as far as subsequent to the counter-reformation is concerned.

        However, I would take issue with your notion of “free thought”. As in the medieval period, when as I mentioned,

        • MainlineP

          Thank you for a thoughtful response. Society has attempted in most countries to compensate for the advantage of wealth by establishing public or state schools and universities, either free or with costs much less than private schools. It is a far from perfect system I’ll concede, but as a graduate of public education not a bad one. Yes I’ll agree with you that we need to do better.

      • Michael Paterson-Seymour

        The Enlightenment was not a reaction against “autocratic ways of governing.” The hatred of royalty was less than the hatred of aristocracy; privileges were more detested than tyranny.

        Most Enlightenment figures believed that, if the central power was weak, the secondary powers would run riot and oppress. They rather favoured “benevolent despots,” because one man is more easily enlightened than many. Frederick the Great was a great hero of theirs.

        In France, “the love of equality, the hatred of nobility, and the tolerance of despotism” [Acton] went together. The Empire was the consummation of the Revolution, not its reversal.

  • tamsin

    Although we can recognize the desirability of sleeping in a comfortable bed and, of course, of a longer life expectancy (the two effects that Tucker emphasizes), we can still ask the question: “what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life?” (Matt 16:26).

    The difficulty is in drawing a line between gaining a comfortable bed and longer life expectancy, and “gaining the whole world”. Dawson does not resolve this difficulty.

    Who decides how comfortable is not too comfortable? Who decides how long is not too long?

    If the bourgeois mind is bent on comfort and earthly prosperity above all else, we have to question its accomplishments.

    That’s a big “if”. If the Bourgeois Mind is so defined that it denies God, then we can’t not question its accomplishments.

    Will it be okay for me to continue sleeping in a comfortable bed and living longer, as long as I question it? As long it makes me feel guilty? Is there any limiting principle to how hard my bed should be? How short my life should be? A cardboard box, and freeze to death next winter?

    A short life expectancy in the midst of an impoverished, but happier
    and holier culture would certainly be preferable to a long life expectancy in the midst of a culture bent on self-satisfaction and spiritual destruction.

    This dilemma as posed is not helpful in resolving the difficulty Dawson himself does not resolve.

    Define “impoverished”.

    No matter how much the poor assure us they would be happier sleeping in a comfortable bed and living longer, if we know that this desire would bring them nearer to the occasion of the sin of participating in the Bourgeois Mind and put them on the road to the perdition of self-satisfaction and spiritual destruction, then “no can do”. Not gonna
    drag anybody else into this pit of despair.

  • Michael Newhouse

    I believe it largely accurate that many who criticize Dawson’s critique of bourgeois culture…do so because they have so fully internalized bourgeois values, so much so that they are invisible to them and presumed to be absolute. Thus, longer lifespans and greater material comfort become self-justifying values.
    In America and the West, we are wealthy and comfortable in ways unimaginable to most of the world and most of human history. As Christians, we should keep Jesus’ admonitions against wealth and in favor of poverty close to our hearts. There is a reason why most saints rejected wealth and comfort…and why most of them (martyrs especially) are considered foolish and/or inconceivable in the reckoning of the modern, bourgeois world.
    This does not require us to form a new class or type of humanity…it requires us to recognize our own sinfulness, to repent, and to be converted and transformed in the saving love of Christ. We must become new creations in him. The Good News is available to all – every prostitute, every tax collector, every centurion, every fisherman, every hypocrite, every heartbroken parent, every hopeful child, every rich young man, every woman at the well, every fleeing disciple, every camel seeking to squeeze through the eye of the needle.
    Is bourgeois material/wealth culture an obstacle to this? Of course!
    Our natural impulses to comfort and pleasure and wealth are always opposed to our supernatural call to holiness and charity and sacrifice.

  • Bedarz Iliaci

    The term “bourgeois” used by Dawson is unfortunate and distracts from the real point that a technical, calculating approach to life has deleterious consequences.

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  • Tony

    Jared — thank you very much for this article. I have just been reading around in a collection of essays by Richard Weaver (the same Weaver, of Ideas Have Consequences). In one of those essays, he says that we are all plutocrats now — Mass Plutocrats. That is, we all believe in the power of Mammon to solve all problems. Weaver notes that quite a few Anglos looked down with scorn upon Mexican culture for its supposed poverty — this was written sixty years ago — and did not understand that maybe Mexicans had not elevated the pursuit of wealth to the throne of earthly existence.

    • Art Deco

      In one of those essays, he says that we are all plutocrats now — Mass
      Plutocrats. That is, we all believe in the power of Mammon to solve
      all problems.

      Again, insert a name, and see if the statement makes sense. Try, “Mrs. Cotter believes in the power of Mammon to solve all problems”. The real Mrs. Cotter is 88 years old and would likely give you a puzzled look if you said such a thing. She is acutely aware of the problems of aging, to take one example.

    • hombre111

      You can safely ignore Art Deco, below. He patrols every thread, looking for ways to criticize every thoughtful addition to the discussion. He adds little or nothing of his own. He reminds me of an art critic who does not know how to do art.

      • Art Deco

        You’re ‘thoughtful’ additions are uniformly error-laden when not downright asinine.

        • hombre111

          Again, you prove my point. Nothing original.

  • Jdonnell

    Those who oppose Dawson’s brilliant analysis of culture and his assessment of bourgeois society seem to avoid saying what they fear his views might imply as an alternative: socialism. There are, of course, strong arguments to be made for some form of social democracy or socialism as the economics more closely in line with Christianity than is our current system, which now consists of enriching a tiny number at the expense of everyone else.

    • TheAbaum

      “There are, of course, strong arguments to be made for some form of social democracy or socialism as the economics more closely in line with Christianity than is our current system, which now consists of enriching a tiny number at the expense of everyone else.”

      There are none. Socialism is evil.

      • Jdonnell

        To call socialism “evil” is worse than childish. What is discredited is the current US system that allows a tiny number of Americans (and a few others) to rob productive Americans of most of the wealth they produce. The facts have been presented repeatedly to illustrate that wealth transfer. Most Americans are and will remain in debt until they die. What you call the “free market” (a fiction that serves as indoctrinating propaganda–that you have obviously been victimized by) does not give freedom to spread anything; our democratic laws do that. Dream on.

        • TheAbaum

          It is evil, to call it anything else would be a lie.

          Go spew your noxious propaganda elsewhere.

          • Jdonnell

            If it’s evil, that makes several Scandinavian countries evil, since they have plenty of socialist government in their social democracies. You think like a child by making such simplistic and idiotic judgments.

            • TheAbaum

              You mean countries like Sweden that gave us physician assisted suicide? If you think it’s so great, go. Expatriate. Have the courage of your convictions.

              Socialism not only destroys economies and souls, but lives and minds. Simpletons and idiots ignore the body count.

              • Jdonnell

                You sound increasingly like one of Limppaugh’s dittoheads, all of whom would insist, like you, that they make up their own minds. The Sweden thing is just one more illustration of that mentality. How about this: don’t like homosexual marriage legalized in the US? “Go. Expatriate.” That’s your level. I like Sweden’s 480 days of parental leave (incl. time for dads), its mass transit, lunches for all school kids, free college tuition, health and dental care (choose your own dr.), etc. etc. Yes, the taxes are high, but those taxes pay for stuff that Swedes would have to pay for anyway. In the US, our taxes mostly go to buy more toys for the military–aircraft carriers and dud jets like the F-35. Not facing reality seems to be a habit for some Crisis aficionados.

                • Art Deco

                  In the US, our taxes mostly go to buy more toys for the
                  military–aircraft carriers and dud jets like the F-35. Not facing
                  reality seems to be a habit for some Crisis aficionados.

                  Over the post-war period, the ratio of military expenditure to domestic product has averaged 0.067. It is about a third lower than that today. The ratio of public expenditure to domestic product was on an upward trajectory from 1929 to 1974 and then stabilized at around 0.31 (until the Democratic Party began its public spending puke in 2007). So, the military has tended to account for about 22% of public budgets over the last 60-odd years, and more like 13% as we speak.

                  Wouldn’t assume you know any more about military technology than you do about 20th c. Central American history, or about political economy, or about public finance, or about Mr. Baum’s taste in radio programs.

                  • Jdonnell

                    Figuring military expenditures on the basis of GDP is misleading, as various observers point out. That is why apologists for that spending like to use it. I referred to taxes. not GDP. The Defense budget is only part of military spending; other line items such as NASA, Energy (mostly nuclear weapons related), vet. benefits, the interest from all that spending, etc.) vastly increase that percentage. On top of that, Soc. Sec. was lumped into the budget during the Vietnam War, when Johnson neatly did it to make military spending look like less of the budget than it was and is. I am not interested in Mr. Bum’s taste in radio, though my reference seems to have been on target. What you claim I know is no substitute for your lack of a sound argument. That’s all I will say.

                    • Art Deco

                      Figuring military expenditures on the basis of GDP is misleading,

                      No, it is not. That’s the precise measure of the degree to which factors of production are devoted to military uses. In any case, I gave you the figure as to the share of public expenditure devoted to military uses. NASA’s budget last time I checked was about $18 bn, that of the component of the Department of Energy which performs manufacturing tasks for the military about $12 bn, and that of the national laboratories about $23 bn. The uses of the budget of NASA and the national laboratories are not strictly military (or predominantly military). Even so, the expenditures of these three sets of agencies amounted to about 7% of the budgets of the armed services and the civilian defense apparat. That’s not going to get you any closer to your goal of claiming that most public expenditure had military uses. It gets you from 21.6% to 23%.

                    • Jdonnell

                      Your percentage is too low. Even at your lowball percentage, that’s an incredible amount to spend, when the Cold War is over (despite what the Neocons would have the country believe), and when you see that the US spends more on military than nearly the rest of the world’s countries combined. If you add in the interest, just about all of which was the result of that military spending, and separate the Soc. Sec. the percentage goes way up. (And, I gave exs. of areas outside the DOD, not exhausting them.) That’s all I will say on the matter.

                    • TheAbaum

                      “That’s all I will say on the matter.”

                      Rants aren’t speech, this isn’t the daily kos or the huffington post.

                    • Art Deco

                      Your percentage is too low.

                      Well, then just make up a number out of whole cloth more to your liking. Just do not expect anyone to listen.

                      If you add in the interest, just about all of which was the result of that military spending,

                      Money is fungible, and you’re using an accounting method that does not belong in a poker game. That aside, about 11% of public expenditure is devoted to debt service. You’re original statement remains stubbornly unsalvaged.

                      The United States has a comparatively large economy (around a quarter of world product is within our shores) and a comparatively large share devoted to military uses (5% or 6% instead of the modal 2%). We are also active participants in international politics, which most countries are not. Independent actors like the United States and France do spend more.

                      If you recall, you said that most public revenue went to buy ‘toys for the military’. Your cliche, not mine. You were wrong by a factor of more than 3. Deal with it.

                  • marygar

                    The wars, art deco, the wars….that’s where our expanding of government has gone. You know war is a racket.

                • TheAbaum

                  “free college tuition”

                  There is nothing free, you economic illiterate.

                  Read the masthead, it says a voice for the faithful Catholic laity, not the delude and immature.

              • Nick_Palmer3

                From today’s WSJ piece by Cardinal Dolan (5/23):

                “Yet the answer to problems with the free market is not to reject economic liberty in favor of government control. The church has consistently rejected coercive systems of socialism and collectivism, because they violate inherent human rights to economic freedom and private property. When properly regulated, a free market can certainly foster greater productivity and prosperity. But, as the pope continually emphasizes, the essential element is genuine human virtue.”

                • TheAbaum

                  Interesting. He should have applied this train of thought when the community organizer was seducing him into not opposing the government control of healthcare.

                  Think any of the clapping seal brigade will figure out that the VA IS government healthcare?

                  • Nick_Palmer3

                    There’s a real cognitive dissonance for me. I feel that I owe any Catholic Cardinal respect and two open ears. I need to remain teachable, and to be willing to question my own prejudices and leanings.

                    That said, I repeatedly find myself disappointed when I hear right-sounding words (see Cardinal Dolan above) followed by, as TAb notes, incomprehensibly dumb actions. And while Dolan and others write of nuance, they must remain aware that their words can be taken out of context. I could never be a successful public figure, because to do so one needs to keep ones mouth closed in areas where he lacks knowledge… (I don’t always do so.)

                    More Chaputs, please.

                    • Art Deco

                      At this point, I’d be pleased if the local bishop would shut down the diocesan news letter (which is insipid and scarcely readable), confine his public statements to his sermons and occasional pastoral letters, travel the circuit in his diocese, offering Mass at at least two different parishes (or missions or chapels) every Sunday, preach from the lectionary, and offer Mass ad orientam in Latin. We need a pastor who undertakes some administrative and supervisory tasks. A position paper manufactory and TV fixture we do not need.

                    • TheAbaum

                      I think one can respect an individual and their office while still recognizing they have weaknesses.

                      The thing that I found stunning was that after the HHS mandate came out, Cardinal Dolan claimed Obama lied about contraception in Obamacare with a certain amount of incredulity.

                      That Dolan (and I assume other prelates) were bought off by such a lie betrays terrible naivete.

                      There was nothing in Obama’s record to indicate he would ever give an inch on contraception and abortion.It’s an article of faith among the Dems. What would make you believe such a promise was anything other than candy being offered from a van?

                      For some reason, some Catholics want to desperately to believe that they can play with the fire of big government, and politicians.

                    • Nick_Palmer3

                      At some point I find it difficult to allow them to escape censure because of “naivete.” We here in Boston had years and years of Bernie Law cozying up to the likes of [fill in your favorite so-called Catholic politician]. On finally meeting Faustus, St. Augustine came to understand the difference between eloquence and real substance. Bishop Ambrose fit the bill.

                      After years in a 12-step program, I find myself better able to discern willful blindness from naivete. These shepherds need to admit that they are powerless over the lures of the government teat (money for programs, accolades and dinners, etc.), and to make a decision to turn their wills and their lives over to the care of God. But, I shouldn’t take their inventories…

                    • slainte

                      Why did the population of Massachusetts vote into office, repeatedly,Ted Kennedy? It seems the priests were aligned with the voters and their duly elected politicians. And now the leadership of Harvard defends conducting a Black Mass in Memoral Hall that was estopped only by virtue of the objections of so many Catholics.
                      .
                      What is in the water up there?

                    • Nick_Palmer3

                      You would not want to know.

                    • tamsin

                      “What’s the matter with Massachusetts?”

                    • TheAbaum

                      Naivete in a sheperd isn’t exculpation, it’s an indictment. We need sheperds wise as serpents.

                    • tamsin

                      I wonder what name Chaput would choose if he were elected Pope….

                    • marygar

                      Peter the Roman?

                • marygar

                  Here, here!

            • RufusChoate

              You really can not be serious about using the the tiny and insignificant Scandinavian Countries as an excuse for the complete moral depravity of Socialism. Sweden has started dismantling the their Welfare State as an extremely harmful luxury it can not afford because of its approaching demographic collapse. Sweden was also a neutral and Nazis supportive Country during the conflict between good and evil in the 1940’s.
              Today they are also the largest arms dealers to the developing world.
              I detect an idiot but it certainly isn’t TheAbaum.

              • Jdonnell

                “Tiny and insignificant” is beside the point. And, you could add places like Denmark if you want more geography. You contradict that opening claim by making Sweden an important arms dealing country, anyway. But, that’s your speed. Sweden today is not that of WW II, any more than is Germany, It is not “dismantling:” its socialism, even though it is making adjustments. So are other countries toward more or fewer socialized features. France and Germany (and others) have degrees of socialism. No economic system is sacred, any more than any country can legitimately claim “exceptionalism.” More name calling only reflects on you and the weakness of your views.

        • slainte

          Jdonnell writes: “…To call socialism “evil” is worse than childish..”
          .
          Really? Have you forgotten Nationalsozialismus translated National Sociailism a/k/a the Nazis whose leadership murdered 12 million people, including 6 million just because they were Jewish and the state sought to confiscate their wealth for some alleged public good.
          .
          Or perhaps you meant to defend the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the mass murders initiated by its dear leadership…Stalin, Kruschev etc.
          .
          This putrid system, Socialism, with its track record of governmental oppression, coercion, and murder of its own defenseless citizens…this you defend?

          • Jdonnell

            No, I don’t defend Hitler–or his socialist opponent, Stalin. Hitler’s Germany was hardly socialist; he insisted on favoring its corporations (like Krup) and said that he believed in private property. I stand by my remark in the face of your hysterical attack.

            • Art Deco

              To call socialism “evil” is worse than childish.

              Whatever that means.

              What is discredited is
              the current US system that allows a tiny number of Americans (and a few
              others) to rob productive Americans of most of the wealth they produce.

              Who was ‘robbed’ and through what mechanism?

              The facts have been presented repeatedly to illustrate that wealth
              transfer.

              By whom, and when?

              Most Americans are and will remain in debt until they die.

              Assessed cross-sectionally, about 45% of the population is in debt at any one time as a rule. Assessed longitudinally, the number of persistent debtors is much lower.

              What you call the “free market” (a fiction that serves as indoctrinating
              propaganda–that you have obviously been victimized by) does not give
              freedom to spread anything; our democratic laws do that. Dream on.

              Our ‘democratic laws’ are enacted by legislatures that at this time have about as much discretion as high school student councils (Principal Anthony Kennedy insists), are shot through with careerists and opportunists, are placed in office by defective procedures, and are held in contempt at the apex and center by 89% of the public.

              As for the ‘fictional’ free market, a remark from Business Week a generation ago suffices: “Businessmen who immerse themselves day after day in what certainly feels like competition would be surprised to learn from Mr. [Ralph] Nader how free of it they are”.

              • Jdonnell

                “What feels like competition” isn’t necessarily that, and the same is true for the rest of your feelings about laws, etc. The financial parasites are taking (not earning) more than ever from those who actually do the producing, as stats. from many sources show. If you aren’t aware of that, you’re beyond help. Maybe less time posting your silly responses would give you more opportunities to find out what is going on.

                • Art Deco

                  Oh?

            • RufusChoate

              Nonsense only the Left parse their political philosophy so bizarrely to claim all the benefits and avoid the unpleasant parts which is generally the majority of outcomes. All Socialism government even the Soviets and Red Chinese allowed Party members to run their factories and maintain ownership and profits from their enterprises which they consistently sought to enrich.
              The Soviet Union and Nation Socialist Germany jointly invaded Poland in 1940 as Allies and of the non-Jewish Communists, Socialists and Leftist joined the National Socialist Party once they acquired power. The international Left praised and supported both Stalin and Hitler during their alliance. The Left and Socialist like you worship the Comprehensive State and none of your self-delusional gibberish will efface that.

            • slainte

              No hysteria on my end, just the cold, hard and inconvenient facts; that socialism always inevitably leads to tyranny and oppression.
              .
              Go visit any Veteran’s cemetery on Memorial Day to see how many of our war dead died fighting socialist monsters..

              • Jdonnell

                You are living in a world of make-believe–good guys v. bad guys (Commies then, Muslims now). Many countries have adopted what are often called “socialized” features, and their citizens fare better as a result. The US has resisted much of that, starting with attempts (mainly by Republicans) to prevent Social Security, Medicare, etc. (The exception to that resistance is the US military, which offers the most socialized life imaginable to its brass and the thousands of retired generals who live completely socialized retirements).
                If you wan to count grave-stones, you might included Russia, which, as a US ally, lost 20 to 30 million in fighting on our side to defeat Hitler’s Nazis. Our own Memorial Day was created to honor a specific event, the Civil War dead on the Union Side. The sad, tragic losses of US military in recent wars were often the result of lies told to the American people to garner their support for wars–dominoes supposedly in Southeast Asia, WMDs in Iraq, etc. etc. The 6700 plus dead in Bush’s war in Iraq and Afghanistan ought to have helped bring him and his cohort up on charges. The dead peasants in El Salvador–dead on claims of “Communism”–are also more blood on US hands. We live in a great country, but that does not make it free from sin. Our economic system is increasingly going wrong by enlarging on economic injustice. Socialism in places like Denmark help citizens lead better lives. I write in haste, so as not to be late for Mass.

          • Art Deco

            Difficult to try to talk sense to okupiers.

        • RufusChoate

          Wait a minute, let me understand you correctly.
          A system of political economy that has produced death camps, gulags, mass murder (~200 million), Imperialism unequaled in the last thousand years, racial eugenics, man made famines, unprecedented poverty, economic collapse, abortion on demand (Soviet Union 1922) (about 300 Million), mass deportations of populations, misallocation of resources, mass expropriation of wealth from the productive to the political connected class and a host of other evil policies is not to be called evil because it is childish but economic disparity between the “poor” and the “rich” is discredited.
          You are a dangerous fool.
          The US Federal Government consumes ~25% to 30% of the GDP which in real terms is about 4 to 5 Trillion dollars a year and has not altered the complexion of the poor one bit in the last 50 years.
          The poor is not about income it is about ethic and you have the ethics of a parasite.

          • Jdonnell

            I guess you need more than a minute to understand me. Maybe a couple of decades, based on the level of your comprehension as revealed in your response. That’s aside from the name calling. Of course, I don’t support Hitler’s or Stalin’s tyrannies. Those governments were horrors. But, that doesn’t mean that socialism is evil, just that their governments were. Christianity isn’t evil, either, even though many atrocities have been conducted under its banner. Some socialized countries do pretty well; Norway and Sweden don’t have evil governments, but they have a considerable degree of socialism.
            As Scripture says, “Damned be thou who calls another a fool.” The wrath and venom spewed in your and many other comments on this site–supposedly one supporting the Christian values that have largely disappeared from modern culture–exposes a grossly hypocritical Christianity.

            • Art Deco

              I guess you need more than a minute to understand me. Maybe a couple
              of decades, based on the level of your comprehension as revealed in your
              response.

              Your thinking’s not that complicated and it’s certainly not that engaging.

    • Art Deco

      There are, of course, strong arguments to be made for some form of
      social democracy or socialism as the economics more closely in line with
      Christianity than is our current system,

      Before you make remarks like that, you need to be able to accurately describe ‘our current system’. (You’re not getting the job done).

      • Jdonnell

        It’s you who ignores the facts:

        1. The US is now the most unequal of all advance economies.

        2. The latest study by the highly regarded economic-concentration specialist Emmanuel Saez, the richest 1% of Americans have been receiving 95% of the income-gains during the Obama “economic recovery.” This “recovery” has raised incomes for the top 1% by 31.4%. Everyone else has seen income-gains of 0.4%.
        3. The richest one percent of Americans own over 40% of the country’s wealth; the bottom 90% have lost half of their wealth and now own just over 4%.
        4. As the figures show, the rich are getting richer and the poor poorer.
        This is all well known, currently because of Pittekty’s book, Capital, which explores all these matters in detail. That you should ask for facts is simply disingenuous. But, that is the way of those who follow the economics of folks like Rush Limbaugh.

        • TheAbaum

          Unlike you, I make up my own mind.

          First, I don’t covet my neighbor’s goods. Your indignity over statistics isn’t cause for action that results worse problems than they purport to solve. As least Eugene Genovese had the integrity to begin to question the body count that accompanied what he had promoted.

          Second, I’m not here to defend Obama or the actions of the central banks that insist that putting equity markets on the steroids of cheap money is a good idea. I’m not a statist.

          Economics isn’t something I read in a book, it’s been a part of my profession. I have the educational background and years of professional experience in financial matters to know when I’m dealing with the envious and indoctrinated.

        • Art Deco

          You are not actually describing the economic system as a functional reality, you are describing certain features which attend it. Problem:

          1. Figures on asset distribution are soft data (and Piketty had been criticized for his methodology, e.g. recent op-ed by Martin Feldstein).

          2. Asset distributions are always skewed anywhere. The reason is that the asset price will fluctuate around the discounted present value of the asset as an income source. The bulk of income received in the economy is derived from labor, which is not accorded an asset value. It varies from one cycle to the next, but generally between 60% and 75% of all income received is through the medium of labor, not capital or land.

          3. Asset distributions vary over life-cycles as well as social strata. It is disproportionately the old who have assets.

          If you want to describe ‘the system’ and contrast it with some other system, you actually have to describe the institutional forms. All occidental economies are a variant on what used to be called ‘the mixed economy’. The United States has differed from Western Europe primarily in four realms: a fairly comprehensive rejection of public ownership of business enterprises, ample use of means-tested programs, a resistance to making use of value-added taxes, and the secular decline of private-sector unionism. The U.S. has differed from Europe in one other realm: a better lubricated labor market (though not one as well-lubricated as Japan’s).

          If you’re complaining about ‘the current system’ here, your complaining about everywhere else as well. The thing is, the notable alternative implemented to ‘the current system’ in the last nine decades has been the command economy; you can see how well that worked out. Other than that, there’s Yugoslavia, which made extensive use of planning and producer co-operatives. We’d best do a better job than they did because their labor market was in horrendous condition in the latter stages of all that (and some of the output of their industries had its problems. Remember the Yugo?)

  • hombre111

    “Bourgeois” is a strange word to use in an American context. Had to look it up in Webster’s Unabridged, which defines it as “A member of the middle class, a shopkeeper, a merchant, a businessman. One whose political, economic, and social opinions are…determined mainly by concern for property.” Does that describe Americans? Maybe, better, we are a people whose longing is to be rich, whose common denominator is money and the accumulation of stuff. We get a clue when we listen to advertisements. Repeated in a million ways are “more,” and “You can have it all.”

    During the Cold War, we pitied the poor communists whose lives were bombarded by propaganda. This was ironic, because, every few minutes of every day, we were bombarded with enticements to buy, buy, buy. And, if anything, the situation has grown worse. We are not citizens. We are consumers. The shopkeepers have been replaced by the mega-merchants and the Big Box Stores. Corporations bent on selling us more stuff probe our habits and know more about us than the government supposedly knows. Google is probably counting all my keystrokes at this very instant, and some super computer is trying to figure out what products I might be interested in.

    • Art Deco

      Blah, blah, blah.

      I see you have absolutely zero respect for people’s judgment in making their own household consumption decisions.

      The most salient injuries to citizenship in our time are inflicted not by merchants and industrialists but by the legal profession.

      • hombre111

        Typical Art Deco. Nothing of value here.

        • slainte

          Hombre….Not even Art Deco’s humanity is of value?…the fact that he is made in Imago Dei doesn’t cause him to be valuable?
          .
          Recall this moment Art Deco when a member of that despised legal profession stepped forward in your defense.

          • hombre111

            Dear Slainte,
            I have to sort you out from a woman who also posts on Crisis, who is a mother of several kids, and a grandmother. So, when I see Slainte, I have to think, lawyer with a deep spiritual life. Actually, I have no negative opinion about lawyers, having been helped out by one, and with other, wonderful lawyers in my different parishes who were real friends.

            I do value Art Deco as a human made in God’s image. And there are areas where his knowledge is superior to mine. But after realizing that he responds in his critical way to many other posts besides mine, I concluded that he just wants a fight, not a discussion. I think I would respect him more if he did not use so much sarcasm. As a pastor interested in the human drama, I have come to see that a person who often puts other people down is on some kind of desperate quest to find his own worth. I would advise Art to look in the mirror and say, with gratitude, here is a man made in the image of God, who does not have to prove anything to anyone, even himself.

            • Slainte

              Hombre. Perhaps you confuse me with musicacre whom I believe matches the profile you previously attributed to me.
              .
              Everyone posting here carries baggage of one sort or another; myself included. What we have experienced in life inevitably shapes our opinions, influences our views, and predisposes us to certain prejudices. But these experiences do not define our humanity or diminish our value as much loved children of an awesome Creator.
              .
              Art Deco communicates in a straightforward manner well thought out positions which do not routinely correspond with your theological or ideological framework. So what?
              .
              As a priest with an understanding of Christ’s saving grace, I think it”s incumbent on you to take a step back and force yourself to recognize the distinction between a person’s political and other positions and his value to Our Lord. One does not correspond to the other.
              .
              I think you missed an opportunity to model this important distinction in your parting comments with Art Deco, just as I have often done when interacting with others.

          • Art Deco

            1. Thanks.

            2. There’s no point in discussing me; I’m not that interesting. (I’m intolerant of social and historical fiction, which gets some people’s panties in a wad).

            3. No point in despising rank and file attorneys, though how they do business could likely use some adjustments. As for about 2/3 of the appellate judiciary, about 5/6th of the law professoriate, abusive prosecutors, trial judges who are the enablers of abusive prosecutors, the (har, har) public interest bar, the family courts, skeezy ambulance chasers, and the partners of ‘entrepreneurial’ megafirms (http://www.kattenlaw.com/)…it’s tempting to just suggest we issue hunting licenses and cull ’em like we do deer.

            • slainte

              What is your area of expertise? Math? Economics? Political Economy?
              .
              I agree with many of your positions but lose you when you do the number crunching.

          • TheAbaum

            Slainte, there’s every indication that you observant and faithful. I have worked with lawyers and enjoy their quick wit and clever use of language. I’ve even broken bread with them. I’ve learned from them.

            You weren’t the first person or attorney to suggest, as you did some time ago, I consider the law.

            But I also have seen them be shifty and evasive. My favorite quote “the law is about equity, not justice”.

            On the grand scale however, there’s no doubt that the legal profession exercises too much power over society, and that law schools (especially the elite ones) are more about indoctrination than education. The word processor has given judges unprecedented power to write long and tedious tomes that are little more than polemic.

            At least in the old days, Oliver Wendell Holmes indulged his arrogance and imperiousness succinctly. “Three generations of idiots are enough” (Buck v. Bell)

            The average person sees the law as they do for a reason and their resentments and grievances have merit.

            • Slainte

              I know there are aggrieved persons who are unhappy with the conduct of some members of the profession. The profession does strive to do better to meet its obligation to provide excellent service to the public. I honestly do try to be a good person and a good lawyer and have not always succeeded despite best efforts. Lawyers are human beings with frailties.
              .
              Your writings suggest that you are a very smart and talented person who would be a welcome member of the bar because you care enough to write well in defense of God, His Church, and those who are treated unjustly and without the proper respect due all men as children of God. We disagree on certain issues, but I respect you for the good you do.

              • TheAbaum

                I could never be a member of the Bar. I have a deep and abiding contempt for the judiciary and somewhere when I had to say “your honor”, it would be followed with an audible “my posterior”.

                Whatever the merits of individual attorneys such as yourself, there’s an unhealthy and twisted elite
                that rule over the folks drafting wills and estates, contracts, filing liens and other necessary tasks.

  • tamsin

    Jdonnell: “[They] seem to avoid saying what they fear his views might imply as an alternative: socialism.”

    TheAbaum: “Socialism is evil.”

    Jdonnell: “To call socialism ‘evil’ is worse than childish.”

    Tamsin: o_O

  • William Beckman

    I enjoyed Prof. Staudt’s essay and his engagement with the critics of Dawson, but as to the two-party squabble below, not so much.

  • WSquared

    Thank you for your essay and for drawing our attention to Dawson’s original essay.

    Whatever comforts and delights we have in life are gifts. They’re not bad things per se (and I didn’t get the impression that Dawson denigrated them as such). But he rightly questions if not attacks putting them above all else. It’s not a bad thing to make money, but it’s a bad thing to worship it, no matter how much or how little one has of it. It’s okay to enjoy one’s iPhone or iPad, but it’s a rather poor outlook on life that we entertain if we think that we can be happy by buying more and more “stuff.” Perhaps St. Francis de Sales is apt here: it’s not the things in themselves, but how much we love them.

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